Art Chronicles: Bice Lazzari at the Estorick

As I mentioned in an earlier post, back in October, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in north London, is one of my favourite galleries to visit. Located in a restored and expanded Grade II Georgian town house in Canonbury, it has six small galleries on three floors, a neat, well-stocked shop and an excellent little café that opens out onto a courtyard in the right seasons. And I can get there easily and reasonably safely in these Covid times on London Overground, just half a dozen or so stops, thus avoiding the Tube; or, should I choose to sign up for a lengthy tour of Finsbury Park and Holloway, by the number 4 bus.

The heart of the permanent collection is from the first half of the last century: de Chirico, Morandi, Modigliani and a host of Italian Futurists. The two ground floor spaces are currently given over to a fascinating exhibition devoted to the work of the Italian artist Bice Lazzari – Bice Lazzari Modernist Pioneer – following her development as she progressed through various modes of abstraction that finally took her, via the Movimento Arte Concreta and the influence of Piet Mondrian, towards a minimalist abstraction that calls to mind Agnes Martin – though, perhaps, with a stronger use of colour.

Bice Lazzari: Untitled, 1970. Graphite & Pastel on paper
Bice Lazzari: Acrylic No. 5, 1975. Acrylic on canvas

It’s interesting that the first piece on display here, Abstraction on a Line, No 2, from 1925, created with pencil and pastel on paper, seems, with hindsight, to be marking out, in perhaps a tentative manner, the direction Lazzari’s work will take several decades later.

Bice Lazzari: Abstraction on a Line, No. 2, 1925. Pencil & pastel on paper.

Before that could happen, there was a living to be earned … “when my father died in 1928 I had to face life on a practical level and so, rather than walking around with a painting under my arm, I took a loom and started making applied art (fabrics, scarves, bags, belts, carpets) in order to continue living in the climate I so adored – namely, freedom.”

Bice Lazzari: Handwoven Bag & Belt, 1929
Bice Lazzari: Cushion, Hand-sewn fabric, 1930

In addition to similar woven items, Lazzari worked with architects, making decorative panels and designing mosaics, often working closely with the Ernesto Lapadula studio in Rome; she designed jewellery and the decoration of the renovated Pizzeria Capri. She did what an artist has to do to make a living.

But now, perhaps, one more late piece to finish …

Bice Lazzari: White Sequence – Acrylic No. 4, 1975. Acrylic on canvas

Look, go if you can, if you think you might be interested; it’s on till April 24th. And there’s always the café ….

Author: John Harvey

Writer.

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