drawings and gouaches - 1939-1975
Text by Giovanni Carandente
Cesare Brandi called the 'memorial quality of a painting' the subtle nostalgia for nature and things seen and experienced that Afro captured in drawings and paintings for almost his entire existence. An existence that not a few regret, so serene and clear, honest and poetic it was: and the void has never been filled.
Much will still have to be said about Afro, in a real re-establishment of the values of Italian painting in this century (or is this talk no longer heard?).
The seasons of this troubled century have already been almost entirely consumed. Afro came after the spring of the avant-garde, but he lived all the time of the good fruits until the threshold of an autumn that, also by his own virtue, was announced as dazzling, and then died. Of his generation he was among the greatest in the world. It is enough to look at the exceptional quality of what he left us.Afro used three techniques, all of them aiming at the only purpose of rendering with the means of painting a poetic and bright image.
The first was that of the drawing which from a surrealist matrix, but dissociated (to say it again with Brandi), as the other component, before Matta and Gorki, was to be found in Kandìnsky and Klee, reached pure abstractionism , lines and shadows, signs and slight glazes without thickness, like a breath. The second technique was that of cubist 'collages', but taken up exclusively for pictorial purposes, not compositional. Afro used to paint on cada like few other painters of his time. Those papers, as in the fabulous Orient (a few years ago he still knew how to be!), Those thin and reworked papers, those who saw him at work remember them as shreds of light. He watered them, scratched them, diluted them, then placed them next to them or overlapped them in a mysterious fascinating 'puzzle' that approached the secrets of reality while remaining on this side of the threshold. The drawings and paintings (there was no distinction between the two ways) ended up losing the consistency of works on paper, first because Afro worked them so much that the various layers became transparent matter, effects of pure painting, then, because he made 'maroufler 'the sheets from his faithful and irreplaceable re-examiner An original Afro, today it could be recognized from a fake, if ever they could be tempted, also for this unmistakable material.
The third technique was obviously painting 'tout court', in which, however, the working method remained the same. Painting directly on the canvas, sometimes almost without the slightest preparation, Afro used those same luminous shreds of paper, to veil one or more points of the picture that had to remain blind for a certain time. Removing them then, he ascertained if the rhythm he had wanted to give to the paintings was the right one. Afro's painting, never being two-dimensional as in Poliakoff, acquired two specific qualities with those overlapping of refined glazes, a radiant luminosity and spatial depth such as had only been seen in abstractionism at the time of the early Kandinsky.
These three techniques all aimed, of course, for the same purpose, so that the quantities of quality in all three are equal, so far, due to the extreme confidentiality in which Afro enveloped his work, accessible to very few friends (and that friendship it was for those who had a supreme good) so many sheets like these that now see the light had remained the secret diary of his life. And Afro was very jealous of it.
Yet without these works, which can now be seen displayed side by side, delicate and imposing at the same time, the history of painting in Italy after the Second World War not only could not be written, but it could not even be imagined in a context that is finally - after so many provincialisms - worldwide.
And the hope is that these paintings will return to cross our own borders, as in the happy fifties and sixties in which they were created. From the international turnover it will be easier to understand Afro's place on the pictorial scene of this century.