Rather than an exhibition, this seems to be a unified construction built upon a wide range of inspiration. In the artist’s most recent work, the Terrestri series, the whole of humanity appears depicted without any single individual being forgotten or ignored. Canvasses of varying sizes become the locus of frenetic activity. ‘Humans’ seem to come onto the stage, to stop and then exit, without really being aware of what is happening to them, letting themselves be carried along by the pure flow of life. These terrestrials are ‘simply’ involved in their everyday activities, in the multitude of events and emotions that make up the uninterrupted, pulsing energy of existence. This notion of entering and exiting is reflected in the original design of the exhibition, with polygonal structures forming a setting which involves the visitor in what is happening. Both open and closed, these inviting structures provide an ideal approach to Ida Barbarigo’s Terrestri – as if one were viewing them in her studio itself.
Alongside this series are works that chart the different moments in the artist’s development, revealing the surprising formal coherence which underlies it. The show opens with Saturno [Saturn, 1997], the mythological father of all terrestrials, but then continues in such a way that important works from the 1960s – such as General dixi doman piovi [General said it’ll rain tomorrow, 1964] and L’uomo di pietra [The stone man, 1967] – enter into a dialogue with the more recent work. Outside the polygonal structures housing Terrestri is a selection of works from the last forty years, documenting the various achievements of the artist’s long career: Seggiole e tavolini [Chairs and tables, 1962], Passeggiata per scommessa [A stroll and a dare, 1963] and Passeggiata bizantina [Byzantine Stroll, 1963]. From the observation of simple everyday objects – the chairs and tables to be found in a number of Venetian squares – the artist creates images whose characteristic feature is a harmonious interweave of lines. The subject-matter is an excuse to explore that busy world of life which finds expression in the open air, around the chairs and tables of cafés. In the earlier works there is no human presence as such; only later does the delineation of people go together with that of objects. The titles – for example, General dixi… – are often overheard phrases, revealing Barbarigo’s subtle and ironic observation of everyday reality.
This attention to life, to the privilege of being in this world, is often run through with a certain melancholy (as in the solitary figures seated at tables) or even anguish: look, for example, at the Persecutori [Persecutors] or the Giudici [Judges] and Sfingi [Sphinxe] series, in which a threatening and manipulative humanity is depicted in a grim atmosphere, rendered with a sort of unadorned expressionism.
With the Terrestri this vein in the artist’s work disappears, giving way to an uninterrupted flow of energy; vigorous brushstrokes assert the permanence of identity.