1924 – 2013
Born in Trapani, Sicily, but Rome-based for most of her life, Carla Accardi (1924 – 2014) is today acknowledged among Italy’s most important post-war artists. Over the course of a rigorous, poetic and conceptually informed career lasting nearly seven decades, Accardi developed a radical and sophisticated painterly syntax in which the formal and conceptual elements of style were made to embrace rather than conflict. Her paintings and extraordinary environments made using sicofoil, a flexible, translucent plastic developed during Italy’s post-war industrial renaissance, were begun in 1965 and have since become the artist’s most iconic works.
Following a brief period at the Accademia in Florence, where she met her future husband, painter Antonio Sanfilippo, Carla Accardi moved to Rome in1946, immersing herself in the young and ambitious art scene of the war-scarred capital. Accardi was a Marxist, a feminist, and a cultural nomad who in the 1970s spent extended periods in Morocco, incorporating the rhythm and sensuality of northern Africa in her work.
Alert to the neo avant-garde tendencies of Art Informel, Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera and Conceptual Art, Carla Accardi maintained a meaningful dialogue with her leading contemporaries in Italy and abroad. In the 1950s she visited Hans Hartung and Jean Fautrier in Paris, and later met Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston in Rome.
Through her association with Carla Lonzi, the influential author and critic, she campaigned for the visibility of women artists. In 1976 she organized a significant exhibition on Artemisia Gentileschi in Rome, three years before Yvon Lambert’s Mot pour Mot: Artemisia exhibition in Paris in 1979.
In 1986 she was invited by Jan Hoet to participate in the seminal exhibition Chambres d’amis in Gent, where she showed a large sicofoil installation across from a Dan Graham outdoor pavilion and alongside some of the most important European and American conceptual and minimalist artists.
Enraptured by the industrial plastic sheets of sicofoil being delivered to her studio by a fashion house in the 1960s, Carla seized the opportunity to integrate this found medium in her practice, claiming: “I wanted to make transparent what was around us.” Forever reaching beyond the confines of the picture plane, Accardi also fashioned the painted sicofoil sheets
into free-standing cylinders, cones, and extraordinary tents: metaphors for the body and symbols of the cultural nomadism at play in advanced conceptual practice.
Her work has been featured in seminal group exhibitions including The Venice Biennale (1948, 1964, 1976, 1978, 1988, 1993); “Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution 1968-2008,” Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 27 September 2008 – 22 March 2009, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 18 July – 25 October 2009; “Roma 1948-1959; Arte cronaca e cultura dal Neorealismo alla Dolce Vita,” curated by Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco and Claudia Terenzi, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 30 January – 27 May 2002; “The Italian Metamorphosis, 1943-1968,” curated by Germano Celant, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 7 October 1994 – 29 January 1995, Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, 22 April – 13 August 1995; “Italian Art in the 20th Century,” curated by Germano Celant and Norman Rosenthal, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 14 January – 9 April 1989; “Chambres d’amis,” curated by Jan Hoet, Museum van Hedendaagse, Ghent, 21 June – 21 September 1986.
One-person presentations include “Carla Accardi. Smarrire I fili della voce,” curated by Laura Cherubini, Castelbasso, Torun, Budapest, Thessaloniki, and Athens, 2012 – 2014; “Carla Accardi. Segno e trasparenza,” curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, Fondazione Puglisi Cosentino, Catania, 6 February – 12 June 2011; “Carla Accardi,” curated by Danilo Eccher, MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Rome, Rome, 19 September 2004 – 9 January 2005; “Carla Accardi,” curated by Laurence Bossé and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 17 January – 3 March 2002; “Carla Accardi. Triplice tenda,” curated by Carolyn Christov- Bakargiev, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, 20 May – 3 September 2001; “Carla Accardi,” curated by Bruno Racine and Zerynthia Associazione per l’Arte Contemporanea, Accademia di Francia, Atelier del Bosco di Villa Medici, Rome, 18 December 1997 – 12 January 1998; “Carla Accardi,” curated by Ida Gianelli and Giorgio Verzotti, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli, 24 June – 28 August 1994.
A catalogue raisonné by Germano Celant was published in two volumes in 1999 and 2011.