It’s Italo Valenti’s birthday today so our work of the week is his ‘Nr. 286; Pietra; Pierre’, 1964.
Italo Valenti was born in on 29 April 1912 in Milan. In the early 1950s Valenti moved from Italy to the Canton Ticino (the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland). He soon met other artists based in the area, including Ben Nicholson, Jean Arp and Julius Bissier. This signalled Valenti’s growing interest in abstraction, with which came the use of the technique of collage. The artist began to experiment with it in late 1959, originally to make greetings cards for his friends. Having seen the results, Ben Nicholson suggested to him that he should incorporate the technique in his artistic production. For the rest of his career collage became a parallel strand to painting.
At Kettle’s Yard Jim Ede installed this work alongside two of Valenti’s other collages (‘Nr. 284; Etana’, and ‘Nr. 287; Giardino a mezzogiorno’ ) which are the same size and were created almost in sequence, but, as Valenti’s numbering suggests, they were from a much larger range and not intended as a group. Ede installed them frame-to-frame, above an altar-like table and with top-lighting, an arrangement which suggests them being a ‘triptych’. Valenti himself grew to like this notion, which was sanctioned by reproductions in later monographs.
All three works were made with torn sheets of black and white paper. The titles suggest some of Valenti’s main interests at the time, namely literary and mythological subjects, the Mediterranean, the spiritual and nature.
‘Etana’, ‘Giardino a mezzogiorno’ and ‘Pietra’ were among Jim Ede’s first purchases of work by Valenti, following their exhibition at Dokumenta III in Kassel (1964). Ede particularly enjoyed the fine contrast of forms and the subtle interplay of textures, achieved through the careful modulation of the torn edges of the paper and by making full use of tonal variations.