Monday, March 17, 2008

Impressions on Dobrzanski in Milan

Art Milan
view of Vayont, 1964

Edmondo Dobrzanski
Castello Sforzesco
Milan, Italy
Until the 6th of April, 2008

by Odette d'Albo

Walking through the new exhibit of Edmondo Dobrzanski’s works will allow its Milanese audience to reacquaint themselves with a forgotten master of 20th Century European art. The labyrinthine display of paintings reveal the dramatic sensibility of an artist's solemn and serious view on life. The "white-cube"-effect of the exhibition design is a stark contrast from the consistently dark tones of the two-hundred and fifty works on display.

“This black timber is the fulcrum of all, the pin," states the artist on his predilection for dark palettes. "The sum of my experiences and of my limits. Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, except Cézanne, lived of an external light. I speak about an interior light. My paintings would be more and more black because inside them are my things, things that I feel. The black is not funerary, there’s hope inside it. There’s hope in dram."

Loneliness and silence are fundamental aspects of Dobrzanski’s intense art, as can be seen in Vayont, a large wooden painting created in memory of the over 2,000 victims of a disaster in 1964, when a city in Northern Italy was devastated by a landslide and tsunami caused by the reckless construction of a dam. The large painting, created immediately after the tragedy and exhibited at the Expo of Losanna in 1964, brought the artist public and critical attention, exemplifying his life-long commitment to a socially-engaged aesthetic.

Furthermore, as a Jewish artist, Dobrzanski was forced to leave Milan in the 40s because of Italy’s racial laws. He became a refugee in Switzerland, never forsaking his artistic intentions and political integrity, although he was sometimes frightened by his mind’s creations. “I worked on war themes and I created a cycle of drawings with anti- Nazi sentiments” recalls the artist “now I only have a little series of them, because I tore up and burnt many of them. I was frightened that Germany could come in, there was the real danger that they would open the Swiss canal toward France. (…) I lived in fear and dismay of having done those tables. If the Germans had entered Switzerland from the north and they had found those drawings I would have been shot.”

The experience of such fear is extremely important in his career and probably informs his politically-charged and anguished art. The exhibition reveals the clear influence of Expressionist painters such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, who depicted the working class in its loneliness and labour.

The exhibition curated by Maurizio Del Giudice succeeds in re-evaluating and recontextualizing the once-eminent artist into contemporary art history. More modestly, it also gives us the opportunity to appreciate the power of a painter who was at one time considered, along with Giacometti, one of the greatest Swiss artists of the past century.

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