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Ontani, Luigilocked

(b Vergato, nr Bologna, Nov 24, 1943).
  • Matthew Gale

Italian painter, sculptor, conceptual artist and film maker. His first one-man show (1970; Milan, Gal. S Fedele) reflected his awareness of Arte Povera in the multifarious cut-outs of corrugated cardboard and rubber. Ontani’s major occupation was, however, enacting ritualized performances, as in the fire-walking film Fuochino (1972) shown at the Venice Biennale of 1972. In common with several contemporaries, he transformed himself, updating artistic quotations as a critique of past culture; he assumed a pose from David’s Rape of the Sabines in the punningly entitled Rattondo David (‘Raping David’, photographic tondo, 700 mm, 1974; see 1991 exh. cat., p. 43) to comment upon this process, as well as the retrospective sanitization of European culture. In performances at the Galleria L’Attico, Rome (with Jannis Kounellis, Francesco Clemente and others), Ontani acted out emblematic characters, from Don Quixote (1974) to Dracula (1975). In addition to such referential photographs as Creation of the Androgyne (1978; see 1991 exh. cat., pp. 28–9), in which he quoted from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam (Rome, Vatican, Sistine Chapel), he developed less specific characterizations in carefully staged and ‘aged’ colour images. His role-playing culminated in the publication of Acervus (Tübingen, 1978), in which he posed as Old Masters. His association with Clemente and others who returned to painting was reflected in Ontani’s experiments in the 1980s. His fantastic trappings were blended into hybrid creatures in his sculptures (e.g. Throne, papier mâché, iron, wood, 1982; exh. 1984, Venice, Biennale) and humorous, eroticized watercolours, exploring the darker, primitive origins of civilization.


  • Luigi Ontani (exh. cat. by R. Barilli, Milan, Gal. S Fedele, 1970)
  • Luigi Ontani (exh. cat. by M. Diacono, Bologna, Gal. Marco Diacono, 1979)
  • Luigi Ontani (exh. cat., London, Accad. It. A. & A. Applic., 1991)