‘Resistance and Persistence’, the 2016 exhibition that originally included yesterday’s work by Rachel Whiteread, borrowed its title from an essay by Sean Scully on the work of the inimitable Italian...
‘Resistance and Persistence’, the 2016 exhibition that originally included yesterday’s work by Rachel Whiteread, borrowed its title from an essay by Sean Scully on the work of the inimitable Italian modernist Giorgio Morandi. Today’s work, one of half a dozen by Morandi that were included in that show, hung alongside Rachel’s shelf sculpture ‘Step’. It was a co-incidental, and almost too perfect, pairing – as if Rachel had somehow deconstructed the Morandi and turned it into a series of ambiguous forms.
We borrowed the Morandi from the collection of the great literary philanthropist Drue Heinz, who despite being 101 at the time did us the honour of a visit. Her painting hadn’t been seen in public since she acquired it in 1959, and looking at it, next to Rachel’s shelf, she claimed to be seeing it properly for the first time. Smiling, she looked at the two works, and said “it’s as if I’m banging my head between two ideas”.
Morandi worked in semi-monastic isolation in Bologna in the middle years of the 20th century, painting the same sets of jugs and vessels over and over again.
He is a contradictory artist: deliberately understated yet deeply engaging; always small of scale and yet somehow heroic. Thanks to the generosity of a number of collectors we have been able to include his work in several exhibitions over the years. One of our favourites was the 2017 pairing with ‘A Lot of Sorrow’ a film and audio work by Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. It documents in real time a performance in which he asked the American rock band The National to play their song Sorrow repeatedly for six hours straight. It is a masterpiece of endurance art which turned out to share an unmistakable connection of spirit with the Morandi painting – in a sense (at least on paper) the ingredients of a Morandi painting and Ragnar’s film should be rather dull, but in reality they are melancholic and hypnotic masterpieces.