Alfredo Volpi (Brazilian 1896-1988)
PROPERTY FROM A NEW ENGLAND COLLECTOR
Alfredo Volpi (Brazilian 1896-1988)

Bandeirinhas com mastros e fita

Details
Alfredo Volpi (Brazilian 1896-1988)
Bandeirinhas com mastros e fita
signed 'A. Volpi' (on the reverse)
tempera on canvas
28¼ x 41 in. (71.7 x 104.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1968.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist, São Paulo (circa 1968).

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

Alfredo Volpi was born in Lucca, Italy, and arrived with his parents in São Paulo as an infant. There, he grew up in the working class neighborhood of Cambuci and started painting in his teens. From a working-class background and self-taught, Volpi was not part of the avant-garde movements that emerged in São Paulo in the 1920s, most notably after the 1922 Semana de arte moderna, and led by members of the city's intellectual elite --Mario de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Sérgio Milliet, Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Lasar Segall, and Heitor Villa-Lobos, among others--even though he was aware of their activities and exhibitions, and attended Marinetti's lecture in São Paulo in 1926. Instead, after having exhibited in group shows but supporting himself as an interior decorator and craftsman, he joined the Grupo Santa Helena, a spontaneously formed association of artists from immigrant and proletarian backgrounds that had begun to meet during the mid 1930s in the Santa Helena building, in downtown São Paulo, where they rented rooms to use as studios. They progressively gained visibility and started exhibiting their work in different venues and exhibitions, such as the 1937 Família Artística Paulista where the work of some of the Santa Helena members, including that of Alfredo Volpi, was shown alongside that of artists belonging to the elite avant-garde movements. As a result, they attracted the attention of members of the aforementioned avant-garde such as Sérgio Milliet and Mário de Andrade, who were specifically interested in their proletarian origins and the role that this background played in the formulation of their art. Like many in the group, Volpi favored themes such as marine landscapes and popular street festivities in rural and working class neighborhoods, the color flags, bandeirinhas, that adorned these street fairs would later become a leit motif in his work, the form of which would become a constant in his abstract paintings. Volpi had his first solo show at the Galeria Itá in São Paulo in 1944, and in 1950 he travelled to Italy where he had the chance to study the medieval and Renaissance painters who had been his life-long influences, Giotto in particular. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he was in dialogue with younger artists working in the direction of geometric abstraction and Concrete art such as Waldemar Cordeiro of the Ruptura group; Willys de Castro; Hércules Barsotti; Decio Pignatari, and the brothers Augusto and Haroldo de Campos of the Noigandres group; as well as the critic Mario Pedrosa who was his contemporary.

The 1968 work Bandeirinhas com mastros e fita features his trademark flag motif in a dynamic composition in which the combination of different and vibrating colors organized in rhomboid and square shapes recall the movement of a flag in the wind. Aside from the bandeirinha the artist introduces the mast and the banner, suggested by a structure of color and form, that rhythmically punctuates the work. Volpi was a remarkable colorist, and color was both a structural element and organizing principle in his compositions. He favored the use of tempera over other types of paint, perhaps in reference to his medieval influences, but also to attain a tonal effect that is emblematic of his work and unique style.

Julieta González, independent curator

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