August 19, 2009
Contact: Karen Cardinal
Accounting, Web and Marketing Manager, Mead Art Museum

AMHERST, Mass.—On Friday, Aug. 28, Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum will open Lino Mannocci: Sea, Sky, Smoke, the first exhibition of work by the critically acclaimed contemporary Italian artist to be held in a North American museum.

The exhibition features more than 30 recent paintings, prints and manipulated postcards by the Viareggio, Italy, native and Camberwell and Slade School of Art graduate, who works in both London and Tuscany. Highlights include an important series of paintings depicting towering walls of waves, meditations on memory and the passage of time featuring plumes of smoke and examples of the over-painted vintage postcards with which Mannocci first broke onto the London art scene. (Prior to that, he exhibited in Italy as a member of “La Metacosa” group of painters.)

In conjunction with the exhibition, Mannocci will speak about his work in a free public presentation to be held at the Mead at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22. The exhibition’s curator, museum director Elizabeth Barker, noted, “We’re delighted to bring this groundbreaking exhibition to Amherst and to make the artist himself available to visitors. I can’t imagine a better, or more engaging, guide to his exquisite, haunting imagery.”  

Lino Mannocci: Sea, Sky, Smoke is accompanied by a special audiovisual feature on the Mead’s Web site,  including an extended interview with the artist that sheds fresh light on his aims and inspirations and presents unique footage of his London studio. A brief catalogue written by David Cohen is available to museum visitors free of charge.

Whether painted in subtle shades of oil, printed in monotype with elements of collage, or made by over-painting postcards, Mannocci’s exquisite, poetic images reward contemplation. The exhibition’s quiet scenes teem with contained emotion, diffused through veils of memory, imagination and art. Dreams of the Tuscan coast permeate views of piers and waves, while memories of Renaissance altarpieces inspire stacked formats and allusions to traditional religious imagery. Figures adapted from earlier masters—Bernini, Titian, Artemisia Gentileschi and others—reappear, transformed by Mannocci’s distinctive touch.

For Barker, the artist’s allusions to art history are entirely unpretentious: “Just as Lino rarely mentions his authorship of a respected scholarly catalogue of the etchings of Claude Lorrain, so his paintings wear their erudition and sophistication remarkably lightly.”

While Mannocci seems almost to naturalize his sophisticated allusions, his art is far from simple. Indeed, numerous elements—Venus juxtaposed with a fish, a figure oblivious to a looming wave, an inscription impossible to read—remain enigmatic. As Cohen puts it, Mannocci “yearns for the condition of narrative but holds back from explicit storytelling,” dislodged from centuries of Italian painting “by the ruptures of modernism.”

The free exhibition is supported at Amherst College by the David W. Mesker (Class of 1953) Fund, the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund and the Collins Print Fund.  Following its presentation at Amherst, which concludes on Jan. 3, 2010, the exhibition will travel to the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture in Manhattan.

The Mead Art Museum houses the art collection of Amherst College, totaling more than 16,000 works. An accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Mead participates in Museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. During the academic term, the museum is open Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to midnight, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, please visit the museum’s Web site or call 413/542-2335.