24 June-15 Sept 2004. . Pablo Echaurren, the Roman artist nicknamed "Paino" by his friends, was barely 23 when he had his first solo show in 1974, in the prestigious Schwarz Gallery in Milan. Then, his tiny paintings, like little quilts or comics, made of tightly-assembled patches of images, were immediately intriguing. The manifold-faceted surfaces were quirky and sincere probing into current problems of society and human knowledge. Made of enamel paints, they were glistening like toys but were also slightly sinister.
Since the 1970s, in an intensely busy career, he has developed his personal style, openly derived from many happy sources. From the start he made comic books of his own, covers for various youth magazines, published impressive books of whirling drawings of modern fairytales and modern morality plays, was active in the editorial rooms of the left-wing press and became the excellent creator of striking posters.
Since he is one of the many artist sons of the world-famous South American surrealist Sebastian Matta (who recently died in his 90s), it is no wonder that looking at his huge retrospective here you are immediately struck by a strong undercurrent of pre-Colombian art.
This retrospective of an artist only in his 50s is anything but selective there are more than 200 works. From his first fine little enamels, his early box constructions, through his ever-busier oils and acrylics on canvas, we come to densely-decorated, large porcelain sculptures made in Faenza, even to tapestries.
The most recent series of acrylics are not only dark in colour but are even darker in content, some particularly nightmarish ones referring to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In Echaurrens basically cheery socially-conscious oeuvre, the swirls are often too closely-knit and the industry seemingly endless.
But what stands out in his earnest exhorting is his fearless and seriously naughty mingling of "popular art" with "high art" as bright hard energy.