Antifascist writer and politician Carlo Levi (1902-1975), best known for ‘Cristo si è fermato a Eboli’ (Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1945) – a memoir chronicling his years in exile after his political activism led to banishment to a remote region of southern Italy by Benito Mussolini’s fascist government -, was also an important painter; his literary and pictorial works are poetically linked. During a period of temporary blindness caused by diabetes, in 1973, while bedridden, he made 145 drawings on paper with pencil, pastels and ballpoint pen, now owned by Sicilian farmer Antonino Milicia. For the first time in the U.S., these original blind drawings are on show at the Casa Italiana Zeilli Marimò of New York University until December 13 in the ‘Blind Visions – Carlo Levi’s Disegni della Cecità‘ anthological exhibition curated by Nino Sottile Zumbo.
The drawings, small figurative and abstract masterpieces that include sweet and bitter self-portraits, people and places the artist loved, tell in images that emerge from the depths of his mind, during the dark period of blindness. While blind, Levi used a special wooden notebook with strings attached to the sides, that he named ‘Quaderno a cancelli’ (fenced notebook), to help guide his hand when drawing or writing. With the same name, he titled his final collection of prose and poetry published posthumously by Einaudi in 1979, which virtually accompanies the drawings on show.
Ilona Catani Scarlett