Lawrence Ferlinghetti, S. Francisco, 1993, Acrylic on paper, 36 x 74 1/2 in. Photo by Elisa Polimeni
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, S. Francisco, 1993, Acrylic on paper, 36 x 74 1/2 in. Photo by Elisa Polimeni
How many people do you know that are capable of creating a new Italian verb and use that verb to name their art exhibit? Not many.  Leave that kind of creative genius to our own San Francisco living legend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. On October 28, at the re-opening gala of San Francisco’s Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Ferlinghetti’s art exhibit titled “Fluxare – The European Connexion”, will open for a one month run, from October 28 to November 30, at the Institute’s new location at 601 Van Ness Avenue. See details below.
Mr. Ferlinghetti is well-known world-wide as a poet, writer, publisher, painter, literary legend and co-founder of San Francisco’s iconic City Lights Bookstore.  Even more impressive is that Lorenzo (He does like to be called Lorenzo and admits Italian is “la bella lingua.”) realized his first love was not poetry, but, rather, painting. This passion for painting has been apparent over the past six decades through his extraordinary number of more than 2,000 visual works of art ranging from lithographs, silk screen images, drawing and paintings.
In 1950 he earned a Doctorate de L’Universite de la Sorbonne in Paris and it was in that same year that Ferlinghetti did his first painting at the Academie Julien. It was a black and white drawing titled “Duex”, a work he says was strongly influenced by the French painter, Jean Cocteau.
Lorenzo has exhibited all over the world, including Italy.  In 1996, at one of the exhibitions in Rome, Italian art critic, Achille Bonito Oliva, characterized Ferlinghetti as “godfather of the (Italian) trans-avant-garde.” This European connection began with his father, an Italian having emigrated from Brescia to the U.S.  It is Ferlinghetti’s love and connection to Europe that is the inspiration for this ongoing exhibit and for his creation of his new Italian verb “Fluxare”, meaning to make love without touching.

Recently, L’Italo-Americano interviewed Ferlinghetti about the exhibit, which offers a rare opportunity to view the work of a living legend.  When asked when he last exhibited in San Francisco he replied “It’s been quite a while.  My most recent local shows in the past few years were at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and
the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art. I’ve exhibited many times in Italy, in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, (Palace of Exhibitions). My gallery in San Francisco was George Krevsky Fine Arts but they were forced out by rising rents.  We just got a website up for my paintings.” George Krevsky Fine Arts continues to maintain a website at http://www. georgekrevsky and the new Ferlinghetti art website can be found at http://www.
In a 2012 article in Poetry Magazine titled “More Light”, Lorenzo shares his thoughts about painting: “My first San Francisco studio was at Nine Mission Street and the Embarcadero in the Audiffred building.  I inherited the studio from Hassel Smith, the figurative painter. It was a marvelous studio, a big third-floor loft looking out on the Bay.  There was no heat except for a small pot-bellied stove, and there was no electricity above the ground floor.  Just like Paris which I had just left. The rent was $29 a month.”  He goes on to say:  “I never wanted to be a poet.  It chose me, I didn’t choose it.  I wanted to be a painter but from the age of ten onward these damn poems kept coming. Perhaps one of these days they will leave me alone and I can get back to painting.
The “Fluxare” exhibit will present numerous works including “Mother Russia” and “Bagno di Seni” (Bath of Breasts), which is his reference to Italy.  When asked the theme of the show, Lorenzo replied, “It will be related to Europe, my European connection. My favorite painting in the exhibit is “Mother Russia.” Make sure you look at her face.  It’s really a hammer and sickle. You can see a hammer and sickle if you look at her right eye, the head of the hammer is her eye and the sickle is her nose and mouth.  The painting comes out of my experiences as I travelled across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railroad in 1968. Yes, my travels across Russia were profound for me.  I almost died.  I got pneumonia and I was in the seaman’s hospital on the bay of Japan for two weeks.  I got there on the railroad and coming back I came on an enormous Russian plane, a huge Russian military transport plane with about 100 Russian soldiers.  The whole trip was on wooden benches.”
When asked why he often features birds and boats in his art he replied, “The bird is an enigma. As far as the ships, I was in the Navy for four years (as a Lieutenant Commander) and before that I worked on fishing boats in New England.  I worked on a huge scallop boat (also known as a scallop dredge). It was very hard work.  Ships and boats are a natural subject for me after all the time I’ve spent on the ocean.”
Ferlinghetti still maintains a painting studio at the old Navy shipyard at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. He has worked there for over 30 years.  For over 60 years of his life, painting has been his chosen art. The “Fluxare” exhibit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the world through Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s eyes. When you view and ponder his paintings, keep in mind his words: “The art has to make it on its own, without explanations, and it’s the same for poetry.  If the poem or the painting has to be explained, then it’s a failure in communication.” ~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Italian Cultural Institute Gala Re-opening
Fluxare – The European Connexion Exhibition
October 28, 2015 – 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
601 Van Ness Avenue, Opera Plaza Building, Ground Floor, Suite F, San Francisco

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