Running throughout the summer and until mid-November, the Musée Jean Cocteau in Menton is celebrating the works of Valerio Adami, an Italian illustrator and painter, recognizable for his strong black lines dividing vivid colour fields.
A wonderful retrospective that pays tribute to an artist who, for more than five decades, has drawn heavily upon the visual idioms of Pop Art with its cartoonish imagery, flatness, and eye-popping colours to offer rich and complex paintings, drawings and photographs inspired by events and characters from European history, philosophy, and literature.
Born in Bologna in the spring of 1935, Adami began studying art at the age of 10 under the tutelage of prominent painter Felice Carena, before moving on to the Accademia di Brera, where he was placed in the atelier of Achille Funi. After winning the Marzotto Prize in 1958, he held his first solo exhibition the following year at Milan’s Galleria del Naviglio. At the time, Adami’s works were expressionistic and influenced by the likes of Roberto Matta and Wilfredo Lam, but by his second exhibition in 1964, he had already moved to a new style of painting reminiscent of French Cloisonnism, with objects taken out of perspective and context to allow the public to see them anew.
In the 1970s, Adami’s subject matter expanded to include political comment as well as elements alluding to Western history, social values, and literature, featuring such heroes of modern culture as Freud, Joyce, and Walter Benjamin, often evoking rather ruefully the world they desired but failed to create.
Although Adami’s artworks lack visual depth, they exude an undeniable vibrancy due to the deep colours and strong black lines he has used throughout his career. They are also tinged with retrospection and melancholy as his characters are often depicted alone within a vast landscape, or facing away from each other rather than interacting, conjuring the fragility of life and the possibility of salvation through art.
The exhibition, “Adami, ligne(s) de vie” runs until the 5th of November at the Musée Jean Cocteau collection Séverin Wunderman in Menton.
Musée Jean Cocteau collection Séverin Wunderman
2 quai de Monléon
Tel: +33 4 89 81 52 50
Lead image by Paolo Schubert [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], on Wikimedia Commons; edited (cropped); exhibition poster courtesy Musée Jean Cocteau collection Séverin Wunderman, according to Valerio Adami, Sarasvati, Dea della Poesia, 2016 © ADAGP, Paris 2018