Valerio Adami | Biography, Works, Exhibitions

Valerio Adami was born in Bologna on March 17, 1935.
After completing his scientific studies in Milan, where in the meantime the family had moved, he decided to devote himself to painting by entering Felice Carena’s atelier in Venice, followed by the meeting in 1951 with Oskar Kokoschka, then training at the Brera Academy with Achille Funi.
In 1952, after his first stay in Paris where he painted Little Bambine in seggiolino and L’asino d’Empoli, he moved to London and, at the invitation of Roland Penrose, exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
In 1962 he married Camilla, with whom he settled in Arona, on Lake Maggiore. Invited to Documenta III in Kassel by Werner Haftmann in 1964, the following year he appeared in the exhibition entitled I massacri privati, Gli omosessuali-Privacy and Le stanze a canocchiale, held in Milan, the city where in 1966 he presented Immagini con associazioni at Galleria Schwarz and at Studio Marconi. His meeting with Ezra Pound in Venice dates back to this period, then his transfer to New York, where he stayed at the Chelsea Hotel: here the large canvases dedicated to hotel rooms, latrines, homosexuals were born.
“Toilettes, hotels, massacri privati”, as Adami writes, “are ways of life, the other nervous system when I go out with my camera”.
1968 is the year of some important exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale, in which he figures with a personal room, and the exhibitions held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and at the Jewish Museum in New York.
In 1969 with the writer Carlos Fuentes, author of the text Lineas para Adami drawn up the year before, he stayed in Mexico and Venezuela, in Caracas, where the Museo de Bellas Artes hosted one of his personal exhibitions.
In 1970 he exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Maeght, which since then became the main point of reference for his work, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris dedicated a major exhibition to him, which was later transferred to Ulm. The feature film he made in 1971, Vacanze nel deserto, was awarded at the Toulon Film Festival.

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Giacomo Balla | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Giacomo Balla was born in Turin in 1871. In about 1891 he frequented for some months the Albertina Academy, until 1895, when he and his mother moved to Rome where he made friends with Duilio Cambellotti and Serafino Macchiati. He painted in a Divisionist manner with a social bent similar to that of Morebelli and Pellizza. He was interested in the world of marginalised people and took part in the activities of the Scuola della Campagna Romana together with Giovanni Cena. After having spent seven months in Paris in 1900, he returned to Rome. His studio in Via Porpora was a meeting point for Severini and Boccioni. In 1903 he took part for the first time in the Venice Biennale, and in 1909 exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, and the Salon in Odessa.

In 1910 he co-signed, together with Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo and Severini, the Manifesto dei pittori futuristi and La pittura futurista – Manifesto tecnico. Between 1910 and 1912 Balla inquired deeply into the theme of movement, in works such as Bambina che corre sul balcone (Civica Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan), Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio (Goodyear collection, Buffalo), Velocità d’automobile (Museum of Modern Art, New York).

In his series Compenetrazioni iridescenti (1912-1914) the study of the dynamic function of the decomposition of light is rendered through abstract compositions, based on the interlocking of triangular forms. In 1912, the year in which he decorated the home of Lowenstein in Düsseldorf, he took part in the exhibitions of the Futurist group in Rome, Rotterdam, Berlin, and Florence. In 1913 he auctioned off all his figurative works, saying “Balla is dead. Here we are selling the works of the late Balla”. In 1914 he began to compose “words in freedom” and took part in the Futurist group’s interventionist activities. He published the manifesto Il Vestito Antineutrale.

In 1915 he and Marinetti were arrested. Together with Depero he published the Ricostruzione futurista dell’Universo manifesto which promoted Marinetti’s idea of art works as “presence”, “object”, and “action”. This marked the beginning of a period of sculptural researches with various materials (Linea di velocità + paesaggio, bronze relief, 1914). Again in 1915 he held an important solo show in Rome in the Angelelli room. In 1916 he co-signed, together with Marinetti, Corra, Settimelli and Ginna, the Manifesto della cinematografia futurista. He collaborated with the Florentine Futurist magazine L’Italia Futurista and was involved as author and actor in the film Vita Futurista. In 1917, for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in the Constanzi theatre in Rome, the kinetic-light scenery for Stravinsky’s Feu d’artifice. In 1918 he held a solo show at the Casa d’Arte Bragaglia in Rome and, in its catalogue, published the Manifesto del colore. In 1919 he took part in the Grande Esposizione Nazionale Futurista at the Galleria Centrale in Palazzo Cova, Milan. In 1920 he became part of the editorial board of the Roma Futurista magazine.

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Afro Basaldella: Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Afro Basaldella, born in Udine in 1912, is one of the best-known abstract Italian painters, He began exhibiting in Milan during the ‘30s in the same period that his brother, Mirko, came to be known as a sculptor. In 1934 he moved to Rome, coming into contact with the city’s artists. He took part in national and international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale in 1936.

After the second world war his interest in abstraction became more evident. In 1949 he met Catherine Viviano who invited him to exhibit in her gallery in New York. In this period his relationship with the American scene became closer. In the same year the Director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Andrew Ritchie, wrote to him about Patrick Kelleher’s presentation of his works at the museum. In 1950 he lived in the United States for eight months while preparing an exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York, where he returned to exhibit several times in the following years (the show in 1955 was particularly appreciated).

For the American critics Afro interpreted the Italian tradition in a contemporary abstract way, a result of his painterly researches into colour-harmony. In 1955 he was member of the awards jury for the “International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting” in Pittsburgh (the cover of the catalogue reproduced an Afro painting), and in the 1958 edition he won the second prize. Having returned to Italy, where he continued to exhibit at the Venice Biennale together with the so-called “Gruppo degli Otto” (Group of Eight Painters), he held a solo show in 1956, with a catalogue introduction by Andrew C. Ritchie.

In this period he established a close friendship with Alberto Burri, an artist with whom for a long period he shared a dialectical interest in art experimentation. Il giardino della speranza is the title of a large-scale wall painting undertaken in the UNESCO building in Paris in 1958, a work which introduced Afro to the French scene; this interest in him was confirmed by his solo show in the Galerie de France in 1961. Again in 1961, James Johnson Sweeney devoted a monograph to his work since 1950. In 1966 Syd Solomon invited him to teach at the New College Fine Arts Institute of Sarasota (Florida), and then to take part in an exhibition together with six artists, including Philip Guston, Solomon, and Marca-Relli. His painting during the ‘70s was concerned with abstract compositions with a more geometrical linear structure and clear, sharp, coloured backgrounds. After the death of his brother Mirko in 1969, Afro had various health problems.

The 1970s were characterized by an increased output of graphics and by his waning interest in politics and participating in exhibitions. He died in Zurich in 1976.

Renato Birolli | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Renato Birolli was born in Verona in 1905. He studied at the Cignaroli academy in Verona from which he was expelled for “lack of discipline and excessive singing”. Birolli decided to move to Milan in 1927. He took various jobs besides undertaking diverse fresco and graphite decorations in Milan and Pavia. In 1929 he began to work as a proof corrector for “L’Ambrosiano” and so came into contact with Carlo Carrà and Edoardo Persico, the director of the Milione gallery.

He now began his career as a painter, and later joined various art groups. This was a five-year period in which he frequented such artists as Manzù and Sassu, and when he further developed the “ingenuous” style he used for his urban landscapes of 1930-31. In the Galleria del Milione in 1932 he exhibited Arlecchino (1931), San Zeno pescatore (1931), and La sposa (1932), works in which he showed his intention of recuperating a figurative language based on a kind of primary spontaneity, even while distancing himself from improvisation and technical virtuosity.

Birolli was always in search of a theoretical underpinning to his painting, something that was helped by his activity as a journalist, and his ideas were expounded in his “Taccuini”, Notebooks, from 1936 onwards. In the meanwhile his participation in the 1932 “10 pittori” show held at the Galleria d’Arte in Rome had given him the opportunity to get to know Mafai and Mazzacurati and to come into contact with the Scuola Romana group. In 1935 he broke off his relationship with Persico and renewed his friendship with the critic Sandro Bini. In the following year Birolli went to Paris for the first time where he discovered the painting of Van Gogh, Cézanne and, more generally, all the stimuli that Paris could offer.

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Umberto Boccioni | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Umberto Boccioni was born in Reggio Calabria in 1882; his parents were from the Romagna region. As a result of continual changes of home (his father was employed by the prefecture), he went to school in Reggio Calabria and then Forlì, Genoa, Padua, and finally Catania where he gained a diploma from the technical college. He already showed a great interest in literature and, despite his low marks, in drawing too.

In 1899, after arguments with his family, he went to live with an aunt in Rome and enrolled for a course of life drawing, at the same time studying drawing with the poster designer Matalani, because the thought the academy was too antiquated and repressive. He became friends with Severini, and Balla who, just returned from Paris, had a decisive influence on both them and other artists who frequented his studio at Porta Pinciana. He came into contact with Divisionism and gained a knowledge of contemporary French painting; he was also interested in the Symbolism of Sartorio, De Carolis, Pellizza da Volpedo, Meunier, and Klimt. He became interested in the cultural, artistic, and philosophical situation in Europe, and developed his own convictions through reading Sorel, Nietzsche, and Renan. He also wrote an unpublished novel (Pane dell’anima, 1900) and collaborated with some periodicals. In particular, together with Severini, he studied landscape and painted in the open air in the Roman countryside, taking particular notice of the atmosphere’s luminous effects.

In 1901 he made his first known drawing for the birthday of his sister Amelia, and another, a Figura maschile. In 1904 he exhibited Paesaggio at the annual show of the Amatori e Cultori, Rome, and in the following year he was to be seen again with Autoritratto. He won a painting competition and, from April 1906, he spent five months in Paris, where he studied the painting of the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists – Cézanne in particular –, investigated in depth the relationship between man and nature, and studied a more marked scansion of the planes. He then went to Russia (Tzarin, Egoritzin, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg) and, on his way back home, stopped off at Warsaw and Vienna.

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Gregorio Botta | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Gregorio Botta was born in Naples on April 18, 1953. In 1980 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, where he followed the courses of Toti Scialoja, graduating in 1984. After his debut, marked by participation in some exhibitions held at the Galleria Rondanini and from his first one-man exhibitions at the Galleria Il Segno, both in Rome, the artist attracted the attention of the critics on the occasion of some important exhibitions, including Trasparenze dell’arte italiana sulla via della seta curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, set up in Beijing in 1993, the XII Quadriennale and the Biennale dei Parchi at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, held respectively in 1996 and 1998, as well as the one-man show, also in 1998, introduced by Ludovico Pratesi at the Istituto Italiano di Culture in Cologne.

Wax, lead, iron, glass are the elements with which the artist practices “an art of taking away, of little, of less, hoping to arrive at an art of nothing. An art that disappears and leaves only, like a vibration, like a secret engine, the action for which it was born” (Gregorio Botta, 2001).

His are archetypal forms (the circle, the goblet…) in which the image gathers again, as if seeking in them “a point of slow surfacing of a submerged truth, which concerns our being more than our appearance”. The universe of shapes elaborated by Botta therefore appears “silent and cautious in revealing itself; muffled by that whiteness that envelops it, as if it lived, and took nourishment, from the amnion of a womb; slow to confess to the beholder, with his asking, submissively, a long look above himself. A gaze that discovers, in the end, the enchantment: and is not afraid of it” (Fabrizio D’Amico, 2001).

In 2006 he presented a selection of his recent works at the Magazzini del Sale in Siena, in which peculiar elements of his language return in a singular game of contrasts: the lightness and transparency of glass, the opacity and hardness of iron. The introduction of the movement is now unprecedented, which animates some installations such as La Porta di Pietro, inspired by the Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca.

Alberto Burri | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Alberto Burri was born in Città di Castello, near Perugia, in 1915. He graduated in Medicine in 1940 and, enlisted as a medical officer, participated in war operations in North Africa. Taken prisoner in 1943 in Tunisia by the British, he was later sent to the American concentration camp in Hereford, Texas, where he began painting. Returning to Italy, in 1946 he settled in Rome to devote himself to painting. In 1947 it was the first solo exhibition at the Gallery La Margherita di Gaspero del Corso and Irene Brin, with works still of a figurative nature. In his second solo exhibition: Bianchi e Catrami, also at the Galleria La Margherita, in May 1948, proposes abstract works for the first time. He then begins to process the first Catrami. In 1949 he made SZ1, the first printed Sacco.

In January 1951 he participated in the foundation of the Gruppo Origine, together with Mario Ballocco, Giuseppe Capogrossi and Ettore Colla and participated in the group’s inaugural exhibition, which disbanded the following year. 1952 opens with the solo exhibition Neri e Muffe, at the Galleria dell’Obelisco in Rome. During the year he moved to Via Margutta: Robert Rauschenberg, present in Rome for almost a year, visited Alberto Burri’s studio, thus being able to see the Sacchi.

With the Chicago and New York exhibitions of 1953, international success began. Alberto Burri: paintings and collages is the title of the first American solo exhibition, staged at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago between January and February 1953, then transferred at the end of the year to Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York. Meanwhile, Burri met critic James Johnson Sweeney, then director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, who invited him to the Younger European Painters exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 1955, he attended The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in an international exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, and in the São Paulo Biennale in Brazil. The staff at the Fine Art Center in Colorado Springs confirms Burri’s growing fortune in America, supported by Sweeney who signed the artist’s first monograph the same year. On May 15, 1955, he married, in Westport, California, the Ukrainian-born American dancer Minsa Craig, who was known in Rome the previous year.

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Massimo Campigli | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Max Ihlenfeld, later known as Massimo Campigli, was born in Berlin in 1895. After having spent his childhood in Florence, in 1909 he moved with his family to Milan, where he came into contact with Futurist groups. In the first youth he manifests literary rather than pictorial propensities; a paper of his, entitled “Giornale + Strada. Parole in libertà” was published in Lacerba in 1914. During thr first World War he felt prisoner and was deported to Hungary. In 1919 he was sent to Paris as a correspondent of the Corriere della Sera and here he began his artistic career; in the first hard years spent in the France, Campigli alternates the profession of journalist with that of painter.

His first exhibition was held in Rome at the Galleria Bragaglia in 1923. During the period of training he denies Futurism and approaches Cubism, from which derived the taste for a rigid geometrization of the figures. He moves, as a self-taught, among the most diverse experiences, trying to combine them. Strongly influenced by Egyptian art, which had fascinated him since he was a child, he is sensitive to the suggestions of contemporary painting, from Léger to Ozenfant to Carrà and to Picasso. In Paris he came into contact with the nine-hundred-century circles and joined the group of “Italiens de Paris”.

In 1928, he returned back to Rome for a short stay; he discovered Etruscan art at the Museum of Villa Giulia, which struck him like a electrocution. He denies previous research and inaugurates his typical way, to which he remained faithful to the end: canvases with earthy colors, dominated by female presences of archaic evocation. In the same year he was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale thirteen works. The following year he took part in the second exhibition of Italian artists in Geneva and held a successful solo show at the Galerie Bucher in Paris: the paintings on display were all purchased by museums and private collectors. Thanks to the success achieved, he inaugurated a series of exhibitions in Italy and abroad: from the Galleria del Milione in Milan (1931) to the Jiulien Levy Gallery in New York (1932), at the Hasefer in Bucharest (1932).

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Giuseppe Capogrossi | Biography, Artworks, Exhibitions

Giuseppe Capogrossi was born in Rome in 1900. His father, Guglielmo, belongs to an ancient and noble Roman family, that of the Counts Capogrossi Guarna. His mother, Beatrice Tacchi Venturi, comes from a family originally from San Severino Marche. Graduated in Law, in 1923-24 he studied painting with Felice Carena and in 1927 he went to Paris with Fausto Pirandello. It is the first trip to the French, followed by many more in the following years. Present in 1930 at the XVII Venice Biennale, he began to take part regularly in the “Sindacali” exhibitions, the Venice Biennale and the Triennale, Milan.

At the beginning of 1933 in Milan Capogrossi exhibited in the “Group of new Roman painters” at the Galleria del Milione, epicenter of Italian Abstractionism. In October they decided to draw up the Manifesto del Primordialismo Plastico. In December in Paris Capogrossi took part in the Galerie Jacques Bonjean at the Exposition des Peintres Romains with Cavalli, Cagli and Sciavi, presented by Waldemar George as “Ecole de Rome”. In 1937 he was featured in three international exhibitions: The 1937 International Exhibition of Paintings in Pittsburgh (the painting Ballo sul fiume won the second prize), Anthology of Contemporary Italian Painting at the Cometa Art Gallery in New York and a review of Italian art at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin. In 1939 he had a personal room at the III Quadriennale in Rome.

In 1942 he won an award at the IV Premio Bergamo with the painting Ballerina. In these years in his painting, also reflecting on Cézanne, he begins a transformation where the color lights up in the ranges of reds, purple and orange, while the brushstroke comes alive. In 1946 he inaugurated his first oneman show at the Galleria San Marco. Since 1947 he has been staying repeatedly in Austria, near Lienz, where he draws piles of wood, suggesting increasingly geometrized forms. In 1948 at the XXIV Venice Biennale he presented Le due chitarre (1948), now in the collection of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, the result of the new neocubist phase.

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