When Schifano arrived in New York City, he was astounded by the saturation of billboards, poster advertisements, street signs, slogans, and other images. Bombarded by the bustling city’s visual language, he began to paint art that reflected this new, modern reality. Particular attention was paid to new materials making up the urban landscape: concrete, enamel, and posters. For this painting and many to follow, Schifano layered paper over canvas and then painted in enamel, often letting the paint drip down. The uneven surface and intentional imperfections serve to remind us of billboards and heighten the painting’s materiality. According to curator Francesco Guzzetti, Schifano “conceived of the canvas as a surface to saturate, a physical object to place in space rather than an abstract element accommodating the traces of his gestures or expanding beyond the margins of its surface.”
The title reveals that the dedicatary is Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of the Metaphysical art movement known for his eerie, strangely artificial landscapes of Italian public spaces. De Chirico’s works often feature arcades, statues, shadows, and trains rendered in enigmatic palettes and compositions. This painting mirrors the high contrast between chalky marble and inky shadows. The white frame and dark blue background possibly stand in as abstracted versions of de Chirico’s white structures and dark shadows. The pigment is applied densely with a large brush, removing gestural traces and turning painting into an impersonal act—perhaps, to invoke a sense of uncanny impersonality that de Chirico captured in his works. By referencing de Chirico, Schifano appears to reflect on the genre of landscape painting, particularly in the context of the evolving New York cityscape.
It is also useful to note Schifano’s employment of a rounded-corner frame, which he continues to use in many of his paintings in 1962 as a meditation on the pervasiveness of signs, televisions, and screens in everyday life.
Pictured: Mario Schifano, A de Chirico, 1962,
Giorgio de Chirico, La ricompensa dell’indovino, 1913, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Giorgio de Chirico, Piazza d’Italia con cavallo, ca. 1970
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