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    Although Alfredo Volpi is often referred to as “unaffected” by artistic movements of the past and present and was “reluctant to accept influences or artistic affiliations,” Rodrigo Naves argues that his work is, in fact, quite complex. In the words of Willys de Castro, Volpi’s works were “draw[n] on a wealth of experience, which he shared – that is, translated and articulated – with those eager to embrace his work.” Naves traces the artistic career of Volpi, including his formative travels. “In his unique way, Volpi produced work that challenged the optimism that industrialization had introduced in Brazil, mainly from the 1950’s on.”

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    In this essay, Rodrigo Naves writes on the intellectual wealth of Alfredo Volpi’s works. He remarks that Volpi came from humble beginnings, as the son of Italian immigrants in Brazil, who lived in a working class neighborhood. Instead of looking to journals to learn about artists such as Picasso, Matisse, or Gaugin, Volpi looked to his surroundings which consisted of “humble human beings.” Naves argues that it was Volpi’s exposure to an intrinsic cultural milieu that informed his works.

     

    Volpi was informed by way of his own research and visits to the museum. From 1930 to 1947, he had the opportunity to view many renowned artists including, among others, Cézanne, Matisse, de Chirico. Naves recounts that from the late 1940’s to the 1950’s, Volpi, “maintained an intense dialogue with artists and intellectuals who were deeply committed to overcoming Brazil’s parochialism, in general, and São Paulo’s art milieu, in particular.” Naves emphasizes a six-month trip in 1950, where Volpi traveled to Italy and France to study original works by artists he had only seen in reproductions. He underscores that Volpi was “in contact with the São Paulo Concrete art group headed by Waldemar Cordeiro, who wrote an article on him in 1952, the same year that the rupture Manifesto was brought to light.”

     

    Although Volpi never dated his paintings, Naves suggests that his “Concrete art phase” lasted around three years in the late 1950’s. His artistic career is considered to have developed organically. Naves discusses the artistic methods employed by Volpi, as well as the elements of his production which radically change over time. He largely focuses on Volpi’s use of color in conjunction with his interest in Matisse, who is considered his favorite artist. He then compares his works to Constructivist aesthetics but also his interest in the “present.”

     

    This essay is important for gaining a broader scope of Volpi’s artistic career and development. [See in ICAA digital archive, the texts: “Art and Design: Discovery and Attitude” by Alexandre Wollner (doc. no. 1324618), “Brazilian Concretismo” by Nicolau Sevcenko (doc. no. 1324569) and “Max Bill on the Map of Argentine-Brazilian Concrete Art” by Maria Amalia Garcia (doc. no. 1324602) regarding the publication Building on a Construct: The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art].

     

    Art critic, historian and scholar Rodrigo Naves, received his Ph.D. in Aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy at the Universidade de São Paulo. He extensively publishes essays and articles for Brazilian journals and magazines, were he contributes analyses on modern and contemporary artworks. Naves has authored O vento e o moinho – ensaios sobre arte moderna e contemporânea (2007), Cassio Michalany (2001), Goeldi (1999), among many others.