Larry Day, Narrative: To the Memory of Matteo Giovannetti
Narrative: To the Memory of Matteo Giovannetti represents an early synthesis of Day’s multifaceted approach to visual story telling. Working with many planes of interest, Day combines lived experience with art, history, popular culture, and social context.
Matteo Giovannetti (1322–1368) was an Italian painter who remains best known for his large series of frescoes in the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France, which was the seat of the papacy in the fourteenth century. Giovannetti’s frescoes chronicle the lives of saints and the deaths of martyrs, and he invented stylized representations of architecture to organize his dramatic figurative compositions.
Day’s painting is also structured by images of architecture. The Avignon palace appears in the upper right together with the city’s famous bridge, the pont d’Avignon. A young couple with a motorcycle at left and two older tourists at right frame a dramatic event at center in which a collapsing man, buckling in pain, is escorted away. Within a building that appears to be a studio, an artist (Giovannetti? Day?) stares outward. A cool, elegant man in a red suit and sunglasses stands at the studio door and addresses the viewer.
The many figures seem to accept the violent event at the center of the composition as a matter of course, either consciously oblivious or complicit. The context is 1967, a tumultuous year in world history with horrific violence in the Middle East and Vietnam and mass protests and race riots across the United States.