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Sergio Altieri
Testimonies
   

I had met Albino a few years before he came to Friuli. They had sent me to Venice to organise the participation of some Venetians at an exhibition to be held in Gradisca, between 1951 and 1954. On the door of the bar “The Artists Place”, in Campo St. Barnaba there was a blond guy, dressed in white. He was smiling behind a cloud of bluish smoke. Albino was an affirmed painter, he lived in an important city like Venice and he sold paintings in America. Nonetheless he offered the unknown and embarrassed young man a welcome that was both kind and grandiose: foreign cigarettes and strange coloured drinks that he had never seen before.
Vedova, Santomaso and Pizzinato played scopone (a kind of card game) at the Salute, so did Sergi on the Rio Nuovo, so did Renzini at the Malcanton Foundation, so did Borsato, Barbaro and Schulz at Palazzo Carminati, as did Pontini in Terà, and Morandis, Bacci and Gaspari at the Fenice Tavern with Giudi who did not know how to unmatch. We went from one studio to another, collecting paintings for that exhibition in the country. Bepi Longo’s face was ruined by a merciless illness. “Don’t get upset” said Albino, “even for him, poor thing, doesn’t even realise it.”
We met ten years later in Friuli. Neo–realism was over and we no longer painted ugly pictures, at least, not those ones. There was no longer talk of Contents, but of Operations. But Albino went around on his little scooter between Buia and Tarcento, he stopped under the tree outside the inn and talked with the old woman. And in the meanwhile he watched the river, the white stones, the sky, the hills, the fields, the trees, the mountains, the sun. He drew from them symbols of force, happiness and insuperable obstacles.
We did not talk very much about our work, more about many other things, we joked, I argued with Giselda. What was there to talk about? If in a painting you see someone that you have already met in the street as it is getting dusk when it is bad weather, or the tree that lent out its branches as you passed by in train, or a sleeping hill (the usual clichés), then what’s there to talk about?
Four or five friends, who lived and painted very differently, but who shared a similar way of considering this profession. In brief, we had remained behind.
For me Albino was above all someone who came from Venice, and who brought from that city, together with the air of a great gentleman, the certainties of one who had grown up in the shadow of the Frari. Sometimes, in front of a painting that I wanted to throw away, it was enough for Albino to say “you’re mad”.
He also used to say you’re mad (“Ti xe mato”) to me for another reason, for my recurring desire to organise the artists. We had met for the first time for an exhibition supported by the money of workers in the Isonzo area, and we had not strayed far from those reasons. The public institution as a counterpart to an artists’ union, a purchaser that would substitute, at least partially, the collecting by the rich. His irony and my obstinacy did little to hide our discomfort. “But our world is schizoid, dear friends”.
One of Albino’s characteristics was that his attention was always drawn to genuine, even if modest, people (“poarin”) ‘poor thing’. On the other hand, to certain very intelligent people he made disconcerting and scathing remarks. Once I regretted not knowing how to understand the art of Veronese, shocking a collegue. Albino first descredited the Veronese and then the collegue. Later outside, walking quickly as was habit, holding a cigarette, he talked of the canvases of St. Sebastian as if he had painted them himself and smiled, happy of his paradoxes. This was so, as about paintings you could say what you wanted to, as words had little to do with it anyway.

 

translated by Rebecca N. Kay

 

From the catalogue of the “20 years of painting” exhibition, held at the Museum of Modern Art, Udine, 1988

Sergio Altieri

 

 


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