May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathredal

Achilles G. Rizzoli (1896-1981) Achievers

San Francisco, California


Ink on rag paper

27 3/4 x 47 5/8"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Promised gift of Audrey Heckler, P1.2013.1

Photo by Adam Reich

© The Ames Gallery, Berkeley, California

Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathredal

Achilles Gildo Rizzoli wrote that he lived life “in an unbelievably hermetically sealed spherical inalienable maze of light and sound seeing imagery expand in every direction.” None of his colleagues at the architecture firm where he worked as a draftsman for nearly forty years, his neighbors, or even his mother (with whom he shared a home until her death, in 1937) had any notion of the scope of his visionary work. An author of unknown short stories and novellas that he wrote over ten years beginning in 1923, notably The Colonnade, self-published in 1933 under the pen name Peter Meter-maid, he also made elaborate architectural renderings in grand Beaux-Arts style, meticulously executed in colored ink on rag paper. Dated from 1935 to 1944, they symbolize the metamorphosis of a family member or a friend into architectural structures, or personifications of their attributes. Among these transfigurations are five birthday tributes (the Kathredals) to his mother, whom he venerated for her strength, beauty, and spirituality. Another major project, titled Y.T.T.E. (Yield to
Total Elation), was inspired by the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. A tribute to his father, this series consists of plot plans for a fantasy exhibition. A later project, titled A.C.E. (Amte’s Celestial Extravaganza), was meant to be his “Third Testament” of the Bible. It reunites 350 large sheets filled with architectural drawings, commemorations of events, and poetry, with writings as diverse as the description of falling snow, the election of John F. Kennedy, the celebration of saints, and the metamorphoses of deceased relatives. Rizzoli’s nonlinear narratives are filled with indecipherable words, neologisms, symbolically loaded puns, anagrams, and acronyms.

Valérie Rousseau, “Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathredal,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.