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Jewish Journal

Melancholy and an Intimate Sadness

by Keren Engelberg

July 18, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Piero Cividalli's paintings call to mind decayed Italian frescos and prehistoric art. But these nods to the past are woven through Cividalli's artistic vision, emerging as finished pieces both intelligent and original.

A muted palette washes faces into their backgrounds as they stare mournfully outward. In one painting, two faces are disconnected, separated by space, by dividing lines and by different perspectives. Their mysterious melancholy is both evocative and elusive, a description that befits the artist as well.

Cividalli was born in Florence and lived there until 1939, when, at the age of 13, he immigrated to Israel with his family to flee the fascists. This uprooting at a young age profoundly affected him and his art. In Florence, his family had enjoyed wealth and a rich cultural heritage. But in Israel, he felt no kinship with other Israeli artists, nor was he financially free to pursue a career in art.

In Cividalli's unpublished memoirs, quoted in an art catalog by curator Linda Siegel, he says, "If I no longer feel at home in Italy, it is also true that I have never put down roots in Israel." This feeling of isolation is apparent in Cividalli's latest exhibit, "Unsaid Words," at Doublevision Gallery in Los Angeles.

Even Cividalli's stills, far from just studies in form, are filled with emotion. He always paints the same objects, relics from his old life in Florence: a chair, a teacup, a goblet, all of which seem to gesture toward one another.

Both in his stills and abstracts, Siegel says that one sees "rhythmic, interacting objects." Indeed, abstracts, under Cividalli's hand, take on a musical quality. A sad tune plays through the undefined shapes of color.

While Cividalli appreciates these analyses, he will not tell you if you've gotten it right. Ever the enigmatic artist, he simply and quietly insists, "I have no intentions behind the paintings. You do not plan it," he told The Journal.

"Unsaid Words" runs through July 20. Noon - 6 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday). 5820 Wilshire Blvd., No. 100, Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 936-1553.

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