When Carla Accardi moved to Rome in 1946, the Italian art scene was characterized by a dynamic sense of renewal but was deeply divided between the supporters of pictorial realism and those who saw a more fertile approach in the formalist avant-garde. In 1947 Accardi was the sole woman artist to sign the manifesto of the group of Italian abstract artists known as “Forma 1,” whose purpose was to construct a language that could reconcile opposing positions, going beyond figuration but also breaking free from the rigors of geometry. An ability to draw upon one’s own inner world, calling into question the very fundamentals of painting, has marked Accardi’s work from the very beginning. Her choice to demonstrate rather than represent vital impulses is evident in the paintings that she painted in the mid-1950s, in which white marks or signs move against a black background to conveying structures based on a mutual relationship. “The totality that the signs make up, interweaving and becoming part of the surface of the painting,” the artist says, “represents life with its infinite variations, and indicates to the observer a way for self-recognition and understanding.” In the 1960s Accardi began using color, approaching it as a revealer of painting’s truth. In Moltiplicazione verdeargento (Silvergreen Multiplication), 1964, an example from this period, the tension between the acid green and the dense silver matter produces original optical challenges that necessitate prolonged periods of contemplation. At the same time, the large scale of the canvas heightens the emotional value of the signs and their power to establish an almost physical relationship with the viewer.
During the following years, in addition to creating three-dimensional installations in an attempt to open up her work to a deeper interaction with space and light, Accardi replaced the traditional canvas with Sicofoil, a transparent acetate. In Nero rosa (Black Pink) and Nero giallo (Black Yellow), both painted in 1967, the new support is used to create an interweaving of broad bands that alternately reveal the sinuous progress of black and yellow signs, resulting in superimposed layers. The series of nine Rotoli (Rolls) in the Castello’s collection, made between 1966 and 1971, is representative of the painting-cum-sculptures that Accardi produces by rolling a sheet of Sicofoil into a cylinder or cone. As in Cono giallo (Yellow Cone), 1966, the form given to the support admits increased light and moves the work to a three-dimensional interaction with the space in which it is displayed.