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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....


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...