CARLO (Zinelli) (1916-1974)

untitled by CarloLocated in the fertile Adige Valley in northwestern Veneto, Verona is one of the oldest cities in Italy, with ancient architectural sites integrated into the mostly Medieval and Renaissance urban plan. Encircled by farmland and vineyards, irrigated by a series of canals, this region boasts an abundance of food and wine. The town of San Giovanni Lupatoto, to the south, is known for its cherry orchards and as the birthplace of Carlo Zinelli, or as he preferred, simply "Carlo."

Carlo's childhood was one of poverty and upheaval. Sent to live in a series of isolated farmhouses, his stutter made him pathologically shy, and he was more often with his dog, birds, and the farm animals than other children. At eighteen, he went to Verona to work as a butcher's assistant. For reasons unknown, after serving in the Italian alpine military division, he volunteered for the Spanish Civil War. Traumatized by that experience, he was given a medical discharge, sent back to Verona, and diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

In and out of Veronese institutions from 1941, he wound up at one of the most progressive hospitals in Europe, where he began making extraordinary graffiti on the walls of his room in 1956. Given paper, paints and creative freedom, over the next eighteen years he was prolific. Mastering color harmonies, and graphic design, his amazing ensemble of characters includes: the shepherd, the Alpine soldier, priests, "Pinocchio", women with purses; and his animated repertory of subjects: boats, birds, animals, syringes, guns, churches, barns and barracks.

Progressing from the earliest miniscule vignettes, to the double-sided narratives incorporating words as prayers, rhymes and songs, to his final black and white works, Carlo was a genius pattern designer. Beyond aesthetics, his paintings seem to be a desperate attempt to communicate in the only way he could, through the rich and imaginative language of his art.

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untitled, dated 14 May 1967
Tempera & pencil on paper
Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli, Verona

untitled, 1963-64
Tempera on paper
Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli, Verona

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