The spirit of Giorgio Morandi—the modern Italian painter who is celebrated as much for his enigmatic still life compositions as he is for quietly and consistently pursuing his own vision—pervades “Resistance and Persistence” at Ingleby Gallery. This group show, which includes a grouping of Morandi’s paintings, features the work of artists who also follow their own paths—and let success and recognition come to them.
The show’s title is taken from an essay on Morandi by Irish contemporary painter Sean Scully, whose work is also on view. As Scully wrote about a particular Morandi painting that kept diverting and holding his attention: “It wasn’t exciting, yet it was exciting. Exciting in its resistance, in its subversiveness.” Morandi lived a reclusive life outside of the centers of the art world. In his modest studio, he worked on paintings of still lifes featuring humble household objects, especially variously sized bottles, arranged with a keen attention to color and composition. Such a spirit of subtle resistance, of unconcern with current art world trends, characterizes the approach of all of the artists whose work has been brought together for this show.
Francesca Woodman is among the artists featured. Though her suicide at the age of 22 cut her life tragically short, she left behind a portfolio of hundreds of powerful, visionary black-and-white photographs, many of which feature the female body, whole or fragmented. They attest to her exquisite and unusual sense of composition and her ability to imbue rooms, objects, bodies, and settings with a sense of emotion and psychology.
Woodman’s photographs share the space with Rachel Whiteread’s evocative sculptures. Whiteread made her name with her sculptural casts of negative space, made from the interiors of buildings, the disused water towers dotting New York City’s skyline, or the space framed by the four legs of a chair, among other places. Often presented unpainted or otherwise patinated, they make the invisible—air, empty space—material and provide a different view of the structures from which they were cast, as well as the parts of our surroundings that we cannot necessarily see but also have shape.