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Renato Barilli

(b Borgofranco d’Ivrea, Piedmont, Aug 5, 1934).

Italian sculptor. After working as a painter from 1959 to 1964, he turned to conceptual art in 1965 and by 1968 was associated with the emergence of Arte Povera, of which he became one of the strictest and most coherent exponents. His limited output consisted largely of the staging of major physical processes whose long-term effects the audience was invited to imagine, in such a way that the non-material dimension of thought was brought to bear on bulky and spectacular physical phenomena. In Direction (150×500×800 mm, 1967–9; Paris, Pompidou), for instance, a magnetic compass is set within a circular recess of a slab of granite shaped like an arrowhead and displayed pointing north, thus proposing two different ways of expressing the concept alluded to by the title.

A consistent message in Anselmo’s work is that one should not entirely believe one’s eyes, since there is always a component that lies beyond appearances. In one sculpture, ...

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Ancona, 1947).

Italian conceptual and performance artist. At 17 he mounted his own exhibition (1964; Ancona, Gal. D.D.), before moving to Rome where he was influenced by Arte Povera. His one-man show (1969; Rome, Gal. Attico), for which he published an obituary announcing his death, included traces of ‘invisible objects’: a square outlined on the floor constituted Invisible Pyramid. Such dematerialization was associated with mortality, with which de Domenicis was primarily concerned, investigated through autobiography and self-portraiture, as well as through juxtapositions of Urvasi, the Hindu goddess of beauty, and the partially divine Ghilgamesh, who sought immortality in vain. Invisibility became a paradoxical and primary conceptual means: D’io (‘of me’/‘God’, 1971) filled the Galleria L’Attico with a recording of laughter. Having included live animals in his Zodiac exhibition (1970; Rome, Gal. Attico), de Domenicis increasingly used people to embody such concepts as ageing (e.g. the opposition of a young and an old man at Incontri Internazionale d’Arte, Rome, ...

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Turin, Nov 20, 1936; d Milan, June 23, 2007).

Italian sculptor, conceptual artist and writer. He frequented artistic circles in Udine in the mid-1950s. In 1958 Fabro saw Lucio Fontana’s contribution to the Venice Biennale and the following year moved to Milan, where he discovered the work of Yves Klein and Francesco Lo Savio and was closely associated with Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. Their investigations of matter and space influenced Fabro’s idea of the artist as a facilitator of experiences without preconceived categories. After tentative early works, he embarked upon austere pieces that encapsulated phenomenological problems, such as The Hole (1963; artist’s col.), a mirror with the reflective coating partially scraped away. While the scraping mimicked the techniques of Art informel, the fusion of reflection and the recession, seen through the suspended glass, was indebted to Duchamp. His first one-man show (1965; Milan, Gal. Vismara) combined mirror pieces with the Spatial Lines, which demarcated their environment with tubular metal (e.g. ...

Article

Antonello Negri

(b Peiraeus, March 21, 1936).

Greek painter, performance artist and sculptor, active in Italy. He studied in art college in Athens until 1956 and then went to Italy. He settled in Rome, studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti, where he was particularly influenced by the non-figurative painting of Alberto Burri. From 1958 to 1960 he produced Alphabets, expanses of colour with letters, numbers, typographical symbols and road markings superimposed (e.g. Z.44, 1960; Rome, G.N.A. Mod.). Such works clearly demonstrated his aim of transcending the poetics of Art informel and pursuing a line of study characterized by contradictory concerns with, on the one hand, the symbols of mass urban and industrial civilization, and on the other, primitive, fundamental, individual values. These were frequently expressed by the artist’s physical participation from 1960 in his own exhibitions at La Tartaruga, thus transforming them into performances where, for example, he would ‘sing’ the numbers and letters painted on the canvases....

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Vergato, nr Bologna, Nov 24, 1943).

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 ...

Article

Renato Barilli

(b Genoa, Nov 5, 1940).

Italian painter and sculptor. He trained as a graphic designer and in the 1960s reacted against the picturesqueness of Art informel by concentrating on the basic components of painting: canvas, frame, paint of a single colour or even the abolition of paint in favour of a completely bare surface. In Geometric Drawing (1960; see 1980 exh. cat., p. 10), for instance, he simply bisected the rectangular with four ink lines running vertically, horizontally and diagonally, an allusion to the traditional squaring up of an image for transfer. The themes he introduced in these works, pertaining especially to the problematic relationship between a copy (deemed inauthentic) and an original work, were central to everything he produced in later years.

Paolini soon turned to other media, in particular photography, which he also used at the most basic level of black and white, as part of his continuing investigation of painting and of the status of the individual object. In ...

Article

Nancy Ring

(b Turin, April 3, 1947).

Italian sculptor and conceptual artist. He created his earliest works in a forest outside Garessio in 1968. He marked his presence there with an iron hand gripping a tree trunk (see 1978 exh. cat., p. 33); trees pierced by nails and laced with metal wire; and a plaster slab measuring his width and height and the depth of a brook. The works revealed his interest in establishing points of contact between man and nature. A member of the Arte Povera group, he continued throughout his career to explore the connections between natural and cultural forms. In 12-meter Tree (1969; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.), one of a series, he carefully carved into a beam of wood to recover the original form of a tree, leaving part of the beam untouched to signify its status as a manmade object.

In the early 1970s Penone used his body as his principal subject, projecting images drawn from the surface of his skin on to plaster casts of his face or on to wall surfaces (see ...

Article

Renato Barilli

(b Biella, Vercelli, June 23, 1933).

Italian sculptor and painter. He grew up in Turin and from 1947 to 1958 was apprenticed to his father as a restorer. In 1947 he also produced his first paintings. Until 1962 he concentrated on portraits, influenced above all by the work of Francis Bacon. He soon realized, however, that he could never rival Bacon with conventional painting techniques. In 1962 he began instead to create life-size photographic likenesses of people and objects that he transferred on to reflective metal surfaces, as in Marzia with Child (painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel, 2×1.2 m, 1962–4; New York, Sonnabend priv. col.), creating an evocative interplay between the static printed image and moving reflections of the spectator on the mirrored surface. These works shared with Pop art a tribute to the poetic nature of objects, but their emphasis on process and on unconventional materials aligned them also with Arte Povera.

In ...

Article

Salvo  

Matthew Gale

[Mangione, Salvatore]

(b Leoforte, Sicily, May 22, 1947).

Italian conceptual artist and painter. After participating in the revolutionary activities of 1968, he produced works that were associated with the conceptual wing of Turinese Arte Povera when shown at the Galleria Sperone (1970). In 12 Self-portraits (photomontages, 1969; New York, John Weber Gal.) Salvo pasted a picture of himself into newspaper photographs of Cuban revolutionaries, Nazi troops and factory workers. He assumed the burden of the complexity of history on various levels: fables, in handwritten manuscripts (e.g. Salvo in Wonderland, 1971; Paris, Yvon Lambert priv. col.); memorials, in marble inscriptions of great figures ending in his own name (e.g. 40 Names, 1971); and nationalism, in the neon ‘Salvo’ in the colours of the Italian flag, Tricolore (1971; Cologne, Paul Maenz priv. col.; all in 1977 exh. cat., pp. 29, 31 and 35).

Strategies of exploration through self-representation were shared by such contemporaries as Boetti and Anselmo, and Salvo exhibited alongside them in ...

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Andorno Micca, nr Biella, Piedmont, Sept 21, 1944).

Italian sculptor, performance artist and conceptual artist . He studied painting and sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Turin (1963–70) and held his first one-man show at the Galleria Sperone, Turin, in 1967. Use of such non-artistic materials as the scaffolding and foam of Chair (1967; New York, Sonnabend Gal.) ensured his inclusion in Arte Povera (1968; Bologna, Gal. de Foscherari) and performance at Arte Povera—azioni povere (1968; Amalfi, Arsenale). Zorio’s characteristic pieces rejected sculptural weight and solidity by use of cantilevers or suspension and reactions over time or with the environment. Several incorporated light; Phosphorescent Fist (1971; Paris, Pompidou) was lit and plunged into darkness, alternatively absorbing and emitting and absorbing energy, being lit and then unlit.

In common with his friend Giovanni Anselmo, Zorio raised linguistic problems, as in Odio (‘Hatred’), axed into a wall at Documenta 5, Kassel (1972), but his concern with energy led to experiments with both chemical and physical instability. He initiated gradual chemical reactions in his materials, which continued beyond the period of making, and used Olympic javelins to provide cantilevers; when combined with fragile, glass vessels or with the emblematic form of the five-pointed star (e.g. ...