During the 1960s and 1970s, Italy was facing a great economic, cultural and artistic shift that eventually made way for the conceptual art movement known as Arte Povera. The very term, meaning "poor art" in English, is used to describe the persuasions of several artists active in different North Italian cities.
Namely, they nurtured the "take it or leave it" attitude that barely left space for art to exist in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Supported by the art critic Germano Celant, the movement was politically charged and was practically made as a reaction to both the local and global context.
The concepts of nomadism and dematerialization of the artwork defined Arte Povera’s perception of what art should be and what it should communicate. The movement was infused by political, social, and cultural circumstances at the time; back then, Italy was exposed to American political and economic influence, through the Marshall Plan imposed on Western Europe three years after World War II. Italy has rapidly recovered and became an industrialized nation of economic prosperity, but many Italians despised this influence and looked up to the revolutions in South America and Asia as models for political change. The frustration with foreign influence was enforced by the American combat in Vietnam. For that reason, much of the artworks produced by these artists reflected these political concerns in the creation of politically charged art.
To re-evaluate this significant art movement and the role women had in the same, Magazzino Italian Art reached out to Teresa Kittler, a lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of York focused on Italian postwar art. As their 2020-21 Scholar-in-Residence, she curated a specially crafted discursive program titled Arte Povera: Art of Collaboration.
From 20 March to 1 May, 2021, the program will offer a series of lectures that tend to re-examine what has traditionally been considered a male-dominated art movement by determining the women who were associated with it. As mentioned, the proponents of Arte Povera had a genuine belief in the community and were prone to establishing different collaborations, and the ones developed with women were of special importance.
These friendships and partnerships will be thoroughly discussed primarily because they have transformed their understanding of the artistic practice. By challenging the traditional role of the muse, the contributors will underline the new approaches to collaboration that have shaped the work of the celebrated male artists.
The series opened on 20 March 2021 with the lecture The Power of Two: Inter-Gender Dialogue, Couples and Creative Partnerships in 20th-Century Italian Culture presented by professor Lucia Re, Research Professor in the Department of Italian at UCLA. She introduced the elementary paradigms, patterns, challenges of these creative partnerships across literature and visual arts in 20th-century Italian culture starting from the Gabriele D’Annunzio-Eleonora Duse collaboration in the theater at the turn of the century, to the fascist-era artistic couples, to the artists and writers of the post-World War II period.
All the lectures will be live-streamed via online at Magazzino Italian Art according to the scheduled dates. No registration is required.
To follow up on this intriguing series, the other three lectures will be briefly presented in the text below.
Featured image: Magazzino Italian Art’s Arte Povera: Art of Collaboration, March 20 – May 1, 2021. Lecture Series Curated by Teresa Kittler. Graphic Design by Waterhouse Cifuentes Design.
Fully titled Mutually Impressed and Distanced: Luciano Fabro’s Creative Collaborations with Women, this lecture is conceived by Dr. Sharon Hecker, art historian, curator, a leading authority on Medardo Rosso, and author of several texts on Luciano Fabro. Throughout his career, the artist frequently collaborated with women through photographs, videos, and several letters related to his art.
Hecker will underline the significance of these connections starting from Fabro’s early collaborations with Carla Lonzi and Marinella Pirelli on the experimental video performance Indumenti (1966), to his less visible collaboration with his daughter, Silvia, and wife, Carla. Her argumentation will be further enforced by Fabro’s imaginary alliances with mythical female figures such as Penelope and historical subjects like Nadezhda Mandelstam. All those liaisons are grounded in the concept of fidelity in a relationship which has an important place in Fabro’s practice and is related to the notion of commitment as associated with memory, artistic expression, and one’s own creative process.
This lecture is scheduled for 3 April 2021, 12:00 pm EST.
Dr. Teresa Kittler will speak about the collaboration between Alighiero and Sauzeau Boetti that marked the artist’s career. Early in his career, he rechristened himself Alighiero e Boetti to double his identity while establishing dialogue and exchange as his prime creative modes.
Dr. Kittler will explore Boetti’s approach by focusing on his relationship with his wife who was a prominent feminist art critic at the time. Sauzeau-Boetti’s contribution to her husband’s research and aesthetic persuasions in the 1960s and 1970s will be exemplified with the work Classifying the thousand longest rivers in the world (1977) the couple made, as well as more informal contributions by Sauzeau-Boetti.
This lecture is scheduled for 17 April 2021, 12:00 pm EST.
The third and final lecture titled Communion and Prophylaxis: Mario and Marisa Merz will be presented by Dr. Leslie Cozzi, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art. She will analyze closely the early sculptures and later work on paper of Mario Merz and Marisa Merz, who stood at the forefront of the Turinese Arte Povera scene.
Dr. Cozzi will approach the individual works in the context of geopolitics, developments in Italian feminism, and the new domestic landscape of the period to examine the creative exchange and the energy employed by the couple. To provide a new reading of Marisa Merz’s interest in alchemy and communion in terms of contemporary developments in reproductive health technology, the presentation will underline the significance of separatism and the professional challenges women artists in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s had to face to claim their positions in the society.
Communion and Prophylaxis: Mario and Marisa Merz is scheduled for 1 May 2021, 12:00 pm EST.