EMILIO TADINI

13.05.–25.06.2021

Gió Marconi is pleased to present a viewing room with Emilio Tadini, featuring a selection of paintings as well as drawings from his Cover for a Weekly Magazine series, all executed in the late 1960s.






Tadini’s whole oeuvre, seemingly simple and straightforward, offers multiple layers of meaning with its dreamlike elements, everyday objects and fragmentary, often faceless and anonymous figures. He is unique in the Italian art scene, as he had adopted aspects of the Pop language when the movement was already on the wane and conceptual art and Arte Povera came into fashion. Although British Pop has been the artist’s point of departure with everyday objects playfully populating his canvases, his interest in the unconscious and the irrational induced him to depict scenes of fragmentation and alienation reminiscent of Surrealism.
Tadini has always had a serial approach to painting. Each new work cycle became a new chapter within his serialized novel of paintings in which the laws of space, time and gravity have been totally suspended.

Emilio Tadini was born in Milan in 1927. After his academic studies he started to write essays, novels and poetry. He has always been an avid theatre-goer and reader and has been particularly interested in American literature: both Ezra Pound’s Cantos and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land had been highly influential texts for Tadini as both authors had managed to merge the high as well as the low language into their texts. He has been an art critic for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and has translated texts by Stendhal, Faulkner and Melville into Italian. Thanks to his love for literature and the written word, Tadini has always been a cross-disciplinary artist. Or as one of his friends and contemporaries, the writer Umberto Eco, has put it: “Tadini was a writer who paints, a painter who writes”. He was in constant search of new languages and forms of expression – both on the blank page and the blank canvas.




Emilio Tadini, 1967 ca.
© Archivio Emilio Tadini, Milan

Tadini’s works from the early 1960s were still very much influenced by Max Ernst’s Surrealism and the mythical creatures of a Hieronymus Bosch. In the mid 60s he broke open the picture and reassembled the strewn around figures and objects into energetic depictions and vibrating paintings. Already these early paintings show the disintegration of the narration and the focus on individual recurring objects like certain pieces of furniture, lamps, sunglasses, shoes or figures.
Tadini started to commit himself to a new figuration which he saw as an effort to “represent the complexity of the relationships that constitute reality”.
Prompted by a profound interest in Freud’s psychoanalysis, he developed paintings with multiple layers of meaning which focused not solely on the depicted objects per se but much rather on the relationships between them. He called this new representation integral realism, a term that included both the conscious as well as the unconscious.
Also Pop Art, especially the British interpretation of it, became an important influence for Tadini. In 1966, his Milan gallery, Studio Marconi, had collaborated with the Robert Fraser Gallery in London and had organized a group exhibition with the likes of Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Richard Hamilton, Derek Boshier and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Tadini has therefore had first-hand access to these artists and their works. A shift in his own practice is clearly visible during these years as also he started to integrate popular images, references to art history and elements from high and low culture into his works: “Pop Art (…) was not a direct participation in everyday reality, (…), because Tadini analysed not so much the quotation of objects as carried out by those artists but rather the intentionality and purpose behind the quotations, which he felt was “mystifying”. (…) Irony and protest were at the basis of British Pop art, whereas underlying the American version was simply the uncovering of mass mythologies, and enunciation.” QUINTAVALLE, pp. XLIX and LV

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, Tadini amassed a large photographic archive of urban landscapes, interior views, still lives, figures and objects. He subsequently started to use these images by projecting and tracing them onto canvas thereby combining two media. He transformed the surface of the painting into a projection field onto which he projected his images. Some of his best-known series from the late 1960s, Vita di Voltaire, L’uomo dell’organizzazione, Circuito chiuso and Color & Co., were made using this technique.


Alongside his paintings and graphical experiments, Tadini has always dedicated a lot of time to drawing. While some of his sheets are studies or preparatory drawings for painting series such as Color & Co. or Vita di Voltaire, most of his drawings have been conceived independently.
The series Cover for a Weekly Magazine plays with the idea of the drawing as a magazine cover. Tadini chose two of the decade’s most prominent magazines, TIME and Newsweek, as a backdrop for his drawings. Depicted on Tadini’s “covers” are not the usual personalities from politics, culture, fashion or celebrities but images from the artist’s visual repertoire - a monkey’s head, an African mask, a gas mask, a bike, a revolver reminiscent of the one in Circuito chiuso as well as a water-tap right out of Color & Co.

The manual precision of the drawings is rounded off by the vibrantly bright colours of the acrylic paint which is evocative of the bold hues typically used in glossy magazines.

Tadini has always been a political person and an acute observer of his surroundings. The covers might therefore also be a reflection of this particular decade of the 1960s.




Emilio Tadini,
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968,
Pencil and acrylic on paper,
48 x 36 cm

Looking at Wanted by the FBI, the numerous assassinations of high-profile individuals in the 1960s, such as JFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or Robert Kennedy who had all been killed within a 5-year period, come to mind. The 60s stand for an era of ultra-conservatism and extended violence manifested also in the Vietnam War on the one hand and hippie anti-violence, liberalism and an ever stronger Civil Rights Movement on the other.
The recurring image of the revolver in several of the Covers can be read as a reflection on the war and the ongoing violence in the US. The gun is, of course, also a reference to Tadini’s very pop painting series Circuito chiuso.
In combination with the frequently depicted monkey’s head, there is another allusion to yet another extremely popular phenomenon of the time: the Beatles. Their famous album Revolver was released in 1966 and two years later John Lennon wrote the song Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, an homage to his future wife Yoko Ono.
The legendary Beatles singer and songwriter could also be the inspiration for the Newsweek cover with the bike and monkey, a quite literal depiction of a so-called Monkey Bike, a mini bike that Honda had invented in the early 60s. On an iconic photo, John Lennon is riding one of these together with his little son.

The interrelation of the Covers and some of the painting series that Tadini had been working on at the same time, is striking.
The rather rough sketch of a revolver, pair of glasses, hand and lemon shows a clear connection to the L’uomo dell’organizzazione series while the water tap and undershirt, albeit integral objects of the artist’s visual repertoire, foreshadow the bathtubs of Color & Co., even though their depiction on paper is more phallic and Freudian than that of their counterparts on canvas.

Tadini’s series of magazine covers can also be seen as a precursor to Alighiero Boetti’s covers of the 1970s and particularly the 1980s, although with many differences in intention and execution.
Emilio Tadini
Wanted by the FBI, 1968
Pencil and watercolour on paper
56 x 42 cm
Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968
Pencil and acrylic on paper
48 x 36 cm
Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968
Pencil and acrylic on paper
48 x 36 cm


Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968
Pencil and acrylic on paper
48 x 36 cm

Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968
Pencil and acrylic on paper
48 x 36 cm
Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1969
Pencil and acrylic on paper
56 x 42 cm
Emilio Tadini
Copertina per un settimanale, 1968
Pencil and acrylic on paper
48 x 36 cm

With Black Time n.1 Tadini transferred the idea of the magazine cover from paper onto canvas. The painting’s title could be an homage to the homonymous song of the Italian rock band I Rokketti, a song about race relations and the difficult relationship between a black man and a white woman. The still life is comprised of three objects: a pair of green gloves, a pointillist chair with a striped seat and a blue undershirt. This alleged TIME cover with its enigmatic array of disconnected things is charged with ambiguity and lends itself to numerous interpretations.
Photo: Emilio Tadini, 1968 ca.
© Archivio Emilio Tadini, Milan
Emilio Tadini
Black Time n°1, 1969
Acrylic on canvas
92 x 73 cm
Photo: Emilio Tadini, 1968 ca.
© Archivio Emilio Tadini, Milan

Another take on the magazine cover can be seen in the painting Tre poltrone, the solitary and almost dreamlike still life from 1969. The painting shows a line-up of three commodious armchairs, a TIME magazine cover with the exact same chair as well as a stark red milk bottle and dark-blue hanging lamp. The depicted scene feels simultaneously frozen in time and steeped in vibrant expectation. The image inside the image in combination with the doubling of the armchair’s meaning, bring to mind Gertrude Stein’s famous dictum which Tadini re-verses into An armchair is an armchair is an armchair.
As Georg F. Schwarbaner puts it: “Each object, each symbol, every fragment of a sentence and of a word has its specific meaning. Tadini’s compositions resemble an image-encyclopaedia of our century.” GEORG F. SCHWARBANER, MAGAZIN KUNST, N. 4/1974, P. 34.

Emilio Tadini
Tre poltrone, 1969
Acrylic on canvas
81 x 100 cm
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