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MARIO SCHIFANO (1934-1998)
MARIO SCHIFANO (1934-1998)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
MARIO SCHIFANO (1934-1998)

Cementoferro 6 (Concrete iron 6)

MARIO SCHIFANO (1934-1998)
Cementoferro 6 (Concrete iron 6)
signed, titled and dated 'Schifano Febbraio 60 Cementoferro 6' (on the reverse)
concrete and iron on canvas laid down on board
66 7/8 x 63in. (170 x 160cm.)
Executed in 1960
Studio Casoli, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
Conegliano, Palazzo Sarcinelli, Schifano. Opere 1957-1997, 1998 (illustrated in colour, p. 55); no. 4 (p.193).
Comacchio, Palazzo Bellini, Mario Schifano. Opere dal 1959 al 1996, 1999 (illustrated in colour, p. 18).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Post Lot Text
This work is registered in the Archivio Mario Schifano, Rome, under no. 04305200620, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

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Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti Head of Sale, Thinking Italian, Art

Lot Essay

Executed in the artist’s breakthrough year of 1960, Cementoferro is one of Mario Schifano’s radical compositions in iron and cement: abstract, industrial yet insistently painterly works that broke away from the gestural abstraction of Art Informel, as well as the slick, minimal conceptualism of his Milanese contemporaries. Only thirteen such compositions are known to exist. Almost two metres in height, the present example consists of a large panel of orange-rusted iron set within a border of cool grey cement, which bears the marks of the artist’s palette-knife. From a distance, this could be a grand abstract painting in impastoed pigment: close up, it reveals itself as a powerful sculptural presence, with rich hues and textures born solely of its raw materials. At the centre of the iron plate, the stamp and serial numbers of the Genovese steelworks company Cornigliano S.p.A. are revealed through the patina. Schifano emphasises its status as a manufactured object, underscoring his early Pop mission to find art in the everyday surfaces, colours and consistencies of urban life.

Schifano’s bold use of material was partly informed by the art of his friend Giuseppe Uncini, who had been making his Cementarmati – compositions formed of cement and iron rods – since 1957. Working with these industrial media, he aimed, much like Alberto Burri, to eliminate painting’s traditional division between the structural surface and the image. Uncini also chose reinforced cement for its urgent humanist resonance: as the material of construction, the flesh and bone of modern urban society. ‘I use these materials with propriety,’ he said, ‘meaning that I do not conceal them or use them to achieve particular effects; on the contrary, I employ them as they are employed in yards, to construct houses, bridges and roads – to construct everything man needs. At the basis of all this there lies a need to build and organise: the creative principle at the root of all human progress. This is what I wish to express through my objects. These are objects, because painting or sculpture proper always represent or mimic something, whereas I do not wish to mimic or evoke things, roads or bridges, but rather to salvage the principle from which they spring’ (G. Uncini in conversation with I. Mussa, in Uncini: I primi e gli ultimi, exh. cat. CIAC, Foligno 2011, p. 103).

In his own earliest cement works, Schifano had incised the surface with vigorous marks that recalled street graffiti or prehistoric carvings. Cementoferro 6 sees an evolution of these primordial pictures, arriving at a tabula rasa that asserts the materials’ constructive and painterly power with a bold purity of vision. Its planes of abstract form presage the Monocromi that he would create later that year: single-coloured paintings which eschewed traditional decorum in favour of media like discarded wrapping paper, bare canvas and dripping enamel house paint. Shown in a seminal group exhibition at Rome’s Galleria La Salita – which opened in March 1960, just one month after the present work was completed, and also included works by Uncini – it was these that launched Schifano to stardom. ‘At first I used to paint with a very few colours’, he recalled in 1972, ‘because my work expressed the idea of the emblematic, of street signs, of perceptual phenomena, of primal things. I thought that painting meant starting from something absolutely primal ... these were signs of energy ... with nothing in them, empty images … that went beyond any cultural intention. They wanted to be only themselves’ (M. Schifano, quoted in E. Siciliano (trans. F. Luino), ‘Lui ama Nancy la fotografa’, Il Mondo, 16 November 1972). Cementoferro 6 emits this same stripped-back, elemental charge. Schifano reimagines the picture plane, finding in the tactile skin of the street – of the walls and doors around us, of the roads and pavements beneath our feet – a site of complex, generative and even sublime beauty.

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