50 Years of Max Pellegrini’s Painted Worlds of Wonder

With its retrospective showing of 50 years of painting by the individualistic Italian painter , Heather James Fine Art celebrates its recent representation of the artist and introduces audiences to the range of his work. His large-scale compositions fill the gallery’s Palm Desert location, immersing visitors in his dreamlike visions.
Titled “Max Pellegrini: A Retrospective Exhibition,” the show features paintings dating from early in the artist’s career to now. Pellegrini draws freely from a range of disparate sources, including paintings, pop culture and contemporary life, Italian music, religious iconography, literature, and fashion. He meshes these references in landscapes and loosely narrative scenes, often featuring human figures from across different eras and environments. In an oil-on-canvas composition titled, Gli Amanti che si amano no ci Sono per Nessuno (2011-2012), for example, modern women meet babies meet an angel in a gold-toned landscape. The artist seems to be presenting his own take on the story of The Annunciation in this work. Before the angel, a baby sleeps with one hand clutching a set of delicate black and red strings, which stretch across the bottom of the composition to connect with a female figure. Her eyes are closed and her hands are clasped to her chest as she receives news from a second female figure. Such a scene resembles those found in the great frescoes and canvases in Italy, in which Mary receives word of her divine pregnancy from an angel.
Another painting, Il bacio del principe (2002-2009), references the famous fairytale of the prince freed from life as a frog by a young maiden’s kiss. Taking the liberties for which he is celebrated, Pellegrini replaces the frog with a chameleon, which seems to be in the midst of changing color. A nude young girl faces the lushly colored lizard, which looks at her with what seems like expectation. This scene unfolds against the backdrop of a dazzling golden landscape, which stretches into the distance as far as the eye can see. These gold-toned works pop against ones rendered in darker shades—and similarly imbued with mystery and wonder.

Karen Kedmey

Max Pellegrini: A Retrospective Exhibition” is on view at Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert, Nov. 27, 2015—Mar. 27, 2016.