b. in 1933 in Florence, Italy
Lives and works in Florence, Italy
Riccardo Guarneri was born in 1933 in Florence, where he still lives and works. After attending to a Scientific Studies High School, he studies at the ‘Scuola Libera del Nudo’. He starts to paint in his early twenties. At the same time he develops a career as a musician. He plays jazz and classical guitar, performing with orchestras of pop music in Italy and abroad.
Guarneri starts with Figuration but soon enough he switches towards the Informality movement. About his style evolution Guarneri said in 2004, in an interview for the catalogue of his retrospective at Palazzo Pitti: ‘…1958 arrived and painting became more important, more serious. I was still fumbling. Between 1958 and 1959 I went to The Hague for a series of concerts. There, I felt in love with Rembrandt’s late self-portraits. They appeared to me as the essence of Informality. On night-dark backgrounds unfolded bright signs, bolts of lighting, golden blazes. I started to draw inspiration from Rembrandt in my informal paintings and nobody noticed it! I was already feeling that the light should be at the centre of my work but I couldn’t give up on the matter yet, I was thinking about Wols and Alechinskij. I then realized that the Cobras were too intense and violent so I lost myself in the purity of Licini and in the lyricism of Klee. When I came back to Florence, I discovered that Fiamma Vigo had opened a new space where abstract painters and young adventurous artists could meet’. From these encounters was created Baldi – Fallani – Guarneri – Masi – Verna. Cinque informali a Firenze. The exhibition takes place in 1959, and the artworks presented by Guarneri are still representative of the Informal style. The artist talks about ‘fervent years, I was constantly overwhelmed by new experiences and discoveries. In 1959, I went to Dusseldorf in Germany. I visited the studios of artists whom works I felt connected to my personal research. At the time, Northen Europe seemed to me as an exciting laboratory, a network of experimentations, a cosmopolite and lively reality. I met Otto Piene, Peter Brüning, Hansjorg Glattfelder, Raimond Girke and Winfred Gaul – I visited their studios and we became friends despite the age gap.’ Riccardo Guarneri first solo show was at Galerie de Posthoorn at The Hague in 1960. The same year, his work is featured in Abstracte Italiensee Kunst in Ostend and in Modern Paintings of Italy at Rose Marie Gallerie in Taipei. In 1961 the artist is celebrated in a duo shiw with Claudio Verna at the gallery L’Indiano in Firenze.
In 1962 Guarneri builds an interest in colours and lighting and in the complexities of visual perception. Since then, the combination of signs and the colours and lights as a matrix for poetic imaginary world have been the main theme of his research. The paintings made around that period are very clear; the surface of the canvas is sectioned by subtle graphite variations. These works are introduced to the public in 1963 with a solo exhibition at La Strozzina of Palazzo Strozzi. Garneri remembers the time when he went beyond Informality: ‘being around my German friends gave me the confirmations I needed, it showed me the way to distance myself from informality – it encouraged me to explore painting further’. At the time the artist works on new lights possibilities, his paintings start to show transparency effects : ‘my experimentations with lights revived my love for the Northern landscape with its the crystalline and weightless light. That’s how lightening always more, subtracting matter and decanting my practice I reached the white silence. It was a process, not spontaneous decision.’
In 1963, Guarneri constitutes Gruppo Tempo 3 with Giancarlo Bargoni, Attilio Carreri e Gianni Stirone. The manifesto claims the overcoming of the opposition between Concretism and Informality and the birth of third Abstraction. From 1964, Guarneri works show rigorous geometric structures: ‘I let myself be absorbed by the geometric rhythm of rhombus and squares alternated in perfect symmetry’. With coloured lights the painter creates eurythmic effects. By using limited gestures to create light and space division, Guarneri originates poetry: ‘I was thinking about honouring Josef Albers square and its tense and compressed dynamics. Albers saw the square as the purity of the form and the escape from emotions: he was too logic and geometric for me, I was looking for more ambiguity – I was coming from the Exenstatialism’.
At this point Guarneri research is mature and original. His career is honoured at the XXXIII Venice Biennale where the artist shares a room with Agostino Bonalumi and Paolo Scheggi. In 1966 he is invited to the “Weiss auf Weiss” exhibition at Bern’s Kunsthalle. The year after, he realizes a kinetic sound space for the New Proposals section in the Paris Biennale and he participates to “Nuova tendenza” organised by Umbro Apollonio.
In the Sixties the artist has numerous solo shows in Italian and European commercial galleries like the Galleria Gritti in Venice in 1964, The Galleria il Paladino in Palermo in 1966 but also in other institutions like 3A in Lecce in 1967 or the Studio d’Informazione Estetica in Turin in 1968.
In 1969, Guarneri painting has become more refined, he produces almost-white artworks, only readable after elongated observations - the colours are the result of luminous transparencies. The regular, light and precise lines suggest only a mere movement of the wrist.
In 1971 he is invited with a solo exhibition at the concrete art show organized by Klaus Honnef at Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster. In the same year he is invite to do a course of lectures at the international 99 Art University in Florence. Guarneri takes part in the Quadrenniale of Rome in 1973 and 1986.
In 1981 Guarneri is featured in “Linee della ricerca artistica in Italia 1960-1980”, exhibition held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome and proposed again in 1997 at the Kunsthalle of Cologne under the title “Abstrakte Kunst Italiens ’60/’90”.
In 2000, Guarneri designed the project for the 24 smq mosaic for the metropolitan station Lucio Sestio in Rome. In the late 2004, in the halls of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, is held the important anthological retrospective “Contrappunto Luce”. On that occasion is published a catalogue – with essays by Giovanna Uzzani and Maria Grazia Messina, artist’s declarations and a anthology of critical fragments – which still today remains the reference text on the artist.
In 2015 Guarneri is among the artists exhibited for “Un’idea di pittura. Astrazione analitica in Italia, 1972-1976” at Modern Art Gallery in Udine. The same year he has a solo show at the Galleria Rosai-Ugolini in New York.
Riccardo Guarneri taught painting at the Academie di Belle Arti in Carrara, Bari, Venice and Florence.
In 2017, the artist is invited to contribute to the 57th Biennale Internazionale d’Arte di Venezia ‘Viva arte Viva’, curated by Christine Macel.