Certificate of authenticity on photo Archive Franco Angeli
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Franco Angeli was born in Rome on May 14, 1935 in the district of San Lorenzo, from Gennaro Gennarini, anti-fascist, and Erminia Angeli, from whom, like the brothers Homer and Othello, he takes his surname. In order to provide for his sick mother, Angeli began working at the age of nine: first as a warehouseman, then in a body shop and in a tapestry shop, where he had the opportunity to learn the use of fabrics, silhouettes and cuttings, which he would bring back in his works. To these engagements he also added that in a radio broadcast, where he sang for the Allies. Angeli, even though he did not attend regular art studios, began painting in 1957, the year he left for military service in Orvieto: "When a person has a profound malaise he must look for a way not to be alone anymore, he must ultimately find an interest that accompanies him for life" he would later recount. Back in Rome, at the Granatieri barracks in the Prati district, in 1955 Franco Angeli came into contact with the sculptor Edgardo Mannucci, a friend of Alberto Burri. He was deeply impressed by Burri's works, whose ability to use materials and forms he appreciated and the influence of the Umbrian master was particularly noticeable in his very first production. These early approaches to painting were also marked by his militancy in the Communist Party: he joined the Italian Communist Party, meeting first Tano Festa and then Mario Schifano in the Campo Marzio section, with whom he shared the experience and drama of the war. He abandoned this political position after the invasion of Hungary, showing himself closer to the extra-parliamentary left and the Maoist movements. In 1959 he exhibited his first works in the group show at the "La Salita" Gallery in Rome with Festa and Uncini. The autumn of the same year he appeared together with Agostino Bonalumi, Jasper Johns, Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg and Mimmo Rotella in the magazine "Azimuth", founded by Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. He also attended the Rosati bar in those years where he established significant relationships with Renato Guttuso, Pino Pascali, Jannis Kounellis, Fabio Mauri. "They were young, beautiful, talented and painted on canvas on a par with the New York of Pop Art, where Andy Warhol took his first steps to conquer the world ... but the art world knows them as the boys of Piazza del Popolo, supported by visionary gallery owners such as Plinio De Martiis and passionate collectors such as Giorgio Franchetti. In 1960 he inaugurated his first solo show at the same "Galleria La Salita" in Rome with a series of works characterized by oil painting veils and stretched nylon stockings, covered with gauze, similar to memories and absences that Cesare Vivaldi describes as "tears of things". In the same year, again at the Salita, 5 painters took part in the collective exhibition. Roma 60: Angeli, Festa, Lo Savio, Schifano, Uncini edited by Pierre Restany. Angeli wins the Prize of encouragement to artists of the Ministry of Education and participates as protagonist in the first short film by Mario Carbone, Inquietudine, in which he illustrates his particular painting technique. In 1962, he took part in the exhibition "Nuove Prospettive della Pittura Italiana" (New Perspectives of Italian Painting) at the Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna in Bologna, where he presented a series of works in which the symbols of power, initially swastikas, crosses and crescents, began to appear. "As Boatto writes, covering his symbols with a veil Angels tended to alter their objective violence", the violence of real events which for him took on central importance and which he never stopped passing through his works; just think of the series of Cemeteries of the early sixties, sequences of white crosses recalling the power of the Schermi di Mauri and the Achrome by Pietro Manzoni, with whom he was in close contact. Angels depicts fragments of history and seems to keep track of contemporary events, giving rise to works such as O.A.S. (Tutti maltivi i tedeschi) (1961, from the initials of the underground paramilitary organization), Cuba (1960, linked to the embargo imposed by the United States against the island shortly after Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces overthrew Baptist's dictatorship), 25 July (1964, commemorating the day of the fall of Fascism in 1943). In 1963 he exhibited in the group show 13 painters in Rome at the Galleria La Tartaruga by Plinio De Martiis with a poem by Nanni Balestrini. In the same year he exhibited at the J Gallery in Paris in a group show "L'Object Pressenti" in which participate, among others, Bruce Conner, Christo, Kudo, Mauri, Todd edited by Pierre Restany. Shortly afterwards, in June, he inaugurated a solo show at the Galleria La Tartaruga presenting a series of works in which the value of the symbol - expired, customary or even tragic - acquires a different augural dimension, standing on the legacy of the informal. Also in 1963, in addition, he collaborated with Mario Diacono and Elio Pagliarani to the realization of numbered volumes with autograph texts and original drawings. In 1964, for the solo show at the Galleria dell'Ariete in Milan in January 1964 Angeli used stereotypical ideological symbols taken from street furniture, synthesizing the rhetorical and celebratory character of the finds of an eternal and capital Rome: "My first paintings are the testimony of daily contact with the street. I saw the Ruins, the Tombstones, ancient and modern symbols such as the Eagle, the Swastika, the Scythe and Hammer, obelisks, Roman Lupe statues, releasing enough energy to face the pictorial adventure". These are the Capitoline fragments that he presented in the Roman exhibition in October 1964 at the Arco d'Alibert Art Studio, while in March he exhibited with Bignardi, Festa, Fioroni, Kounellis, Lombardo, Mambor and Tacchi at the Galleria La Tartaruga. In the same year he participated in the Venice Biennale presented by Maurizio Calvesi, exhibiting the paintings "La Lupa" and "Quarter Dollar", subjects that characterized many of his later works. The following year he was among the protagonists of the exhibition "Una generazione" at the Odyssia Gallery in Rome; in autumn he exhibited almost simultaneously in two solo shows - at Galerie J in Paris and at the Zero Gallery in Verona -, at the IX Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte in Rome and in the exhibition L'art actuel en Italie: semaines italiennes at the Casino Municipal in Cannes. A series of tazebao (Compagni, Berlin 1945, Compagno vietnamita, "Occupazione di un monumento equestre" and "Abbraccio eterno") are dated around these years, in whose extreme revolutionary poetics Dario Micacchi identifies a political painting, or rather a "seeing and showing reality politically". "Angels found in the coin the "small symbolic world" that he had been searching for years and believed he had found in the flags, then in the coats of arms, then in the lapidary inscriptions. The coin, in the hands of Angels, becomes something total, even if it is only an emblematic image, even if it is only a conventional basis of exchange, even if it is only the symbol of a symbol"; this is demonstrated by the personal exhibition entitled "Half Dollar" that Angels inaugurated at the Arch of Alibert in Rome in January 1966 and the participation in the exhibitions "Italian artists of today" in Bucharest "Aspects of contemporary Italian art" at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and "Moderne Kunst aus Italien" in Dortmund. In October he inaugurated "America America (Half Dollar)" at the Aries Gallery, presenting large golden eagles veiled in shades of blue, white and red. The same title is used for the solo show at the Arco d'Alibert Art Studio in Rome inaugurated in March 1967; in April he took part in the group show "8 pittori romani" at the Galleria de' Foscherari in Bologna and in June in the exhibition "Undici artisti italiani degli anni Sessanta nell'ambito del Festival dei Due Mondi di Spoleto. In the years 1968-1970, he participated in the political and artistic ferment of those years in particular by actively demonstrating against the Vietnam War. In Spoleto he met Marina Ripa di Meana with whom he started a long and complicated sentimental relationship. Those years were characterized by the abuse of alcohol and drugs that made him and the other members of the "Scuola di Piazza del Popolo" a group of "cursed" artists. In September he participated in the 9th Sao Paulo Biennial of Brazil and realized his first Reading Days, which was followed by a long activity of research and mixing of video, photography and visual arts, witnessed by "Schermi" (1968), "New York" (1969), "Viva il Primo Maggio" (1968), "Souvenir" (1984), just to name a few. In that period he approached photography, mainly in black and white, privileging intimate subjects and in particular Marina Ripa di Meana and her friends, Tano Festa and Emilia Emo Capodilista in Ansedonia, London, Milan, Positano. In his studio in Via dei Prefetti in Rome he portrays himself in the company of his friends Jannis Kounellis, Achille Bonito Oliva, the gallery owner Plinio de Martiis, the poet Sandro Penna and a very young Isabella Rossellini. These images were collected in an exhibition curated by Carlo Ripa di Meana in 2011. In 1968 he played the role of the protagonist in the film "Morire gratis" by Sandro Franchina. In January 1969 he was in the United States for the first time, where he exhibited in the group show Italian Art Show: Franco Angeli, Cesare Tacchi, Tano Festa and Lorri Whiting, staged between October and November at the Contemporary Arts Gallery, Loeb Student Center in New York. In the meantime in Italy he exhibits in a solo show at the Galleria dell'Ariete (in January) and in the group show "Anno '60" at the Galleria Christian Stein in Turin (in April). In the early seventies Angels, continuing his research on the real datum, opened his painting to the series of landscapes "From the Apennines to the Andes" and "Popular song of the Andes", geometrically inspired, dedicated to the Chilean coup of 11 September 1973; he resumed the theme of the Vietnam War in the works "Anonymous Eurasian" (1969), "Comrades" (Giap and Ho Chi Minh) and "Vietcong" (1971) and also tackles the coup in Greece. In 1975 he met his life companion, Livia Lancellotti, who gave him his daughter Maria in 1976. In 1978 he participated in the Venice Biennale curated by Achille Bonito Oliva. In the eighties, Franco Angeli devoted himself more to figuration: capitals, deserted squares and "marionettes", the latter interpreted as self-portraits. In fact, in his landscapes "the little airplanes, childishly joyful, that bring death to Vietnam", which seem to recall the bombings of the Second World War, begin to appear: "It is in fact evident in him, for those who know him and frequent him because of this attitude, the narrative tension in which the places of personal experience are inextricably intertwined with those of history". The strong social and popular interest continues in the works of the eighties, when the artist takes up the theme of war in the series of exotic landscapes with pyramids, obelisks and airplanes that later became real "Explosions" (1986). The forms become stylized and let spires, capitals and deserted squares emerge as in "a grandiose and poignant sense of excavation during which history and existence re-emerge as perfect and unaltered geometric solids that radiate new colors of life fresh, fragrant, pure green, blue, red". The theme of the "puppet", frequent since 1984, is a sort of self-portrait that seems to prelude to the final phase of his life. Angeli, in fact, sick of AIDS, died in Rome on November 12, 1988.Read more Close