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Mario Schifano was born in Homs, Libya, on 20 September 1934. Immediately after the Second World War his family moved to Rome, where he soon left school and worked as a clerk and then with his father, an archaeologist and restorer at the Etruscan Museum of Valle Giulia. In the meantime he began to paint. His debuts are within the informal culture with canvases of high material thickness, furrowed by a shrewd gesture and also marked by some dripping. With works of this kind he inaugurated his first personal exhibition in 1959 at the Appia Antica Gallery in Rome. However, it was on the occasion of the exhibition held the following year at the "La Salita" Gallery in the company of Angeli, Festa, Lo Savio and Uncini, that critics began to take an interest in his work. Having abandoned the informal experience, his painting radically changed in the space of a few years; now he paints monochrome paintings (large papers glued on canvas and covered with a single colour, tactile, superficial, dripping). The painting becomes a "screen", a starting point, the space of a denied event in which, a few years later, figures, letters, fragments of signs of the consumerist civilisation, such as the Esso or Coca-Cola mark, will emerge. He returned to the States at the end of 1963, after staging solo shows in Rome, Paris and Milan, and stayed there for the first half of the following year, when he was invited to the Venice Biennale. From this period are the anaemic landscapes, a series of paintings in which the natural world is evoked on the thread of memory through fragments, details, allusive writings. The artist now worked in thematic cycles and towards the end of 1964 he accentuated his interest in revisiting the history of art that would lead him, the following year, to the well-known pieces dedicated to Futurism. It is once again an image taken from the mass media, an image belonging to the collective memory, therefore worn out, consumed, the photographic image of the historical Futurist group in Paris, that prompted Schifano, who emphasizes the emergence of the memory of this photo by reducing the figures to faceless silhouettes and makes a distance "veiling" the portrait with coloured perspex panels. In 1965, the same year in which he took part in the Biennales of San Marino and Sao Paulo in Brazil, he produced Io sono infantile, a work linked to illustrations intended for children, which also represents a return - all mental - to a distant temporal dimension, yet always present in the artist. In this phase, Schifano's work is occupied as much by attentive critics such as M. Calvesi, M. Fagiolo and A. Boatto as by illustrious writers such as A. Moravia and G. Parise. In 1967 he presented at Studio Marconi the feature film Anna Carini seen in August by butterflies, followed by the trilogy of films composed of satellite, "Human not human", "Transplant", and "Consummation and death of Franco Brocani". His first cinematic experiences date back to 1964. Between 1966 and 1967 he produced the series Ossigeno oxygen, Oasi, Compagni compagni. The latter emblemised the precise commitment that led Schifano, in these tormented years, to such an ideological and identity crisis that he declared to abandon painting. At the beginning of the seventies he began to bring back television images directly onto emulsified canvas, isolating them from the narrative rhythm of the sequences to which they belong and presenting them with touches of colour in an alienating way. At first it is the material collected in the United States during the inspections for the design of the film, never made, Laboratorio umano, that is the object of re-elaboration, then the patrimony of images that our television stations broadcast daily. In 1971 he took part in the exhibition Vitalità del negativo nell'arte italiana 1960-70, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva; later he held solo shows in Rome, Parma, Turin and Naples and was present at the X Quadriennale di Roma and Contemporanea, an exhibition set up in the car park of Villa Borghese, also in Rome and again curated by Bonito Oliva. In 1974 the University of Parma dedicated a vast anthological anthology of about 100 works to him, which made it possible to read the whole of his pictorial adventure and to define its main lines, an event that was received little by the critics. At the moment the artist is less present on the stage of art, still debated among many ideological and existential doubts that obviously also interfere with his creative abilities. It is no coincidence that this particular moment coincides with the d'aprés, works of rethinking in which Schifano remakes Magritte, De Chirico, Boccioni, Picabia, Cèzanne. And he also remakes himself, repeating the paintings he painted during the Sixties. In 1976 he took part in the exhibition Europe / America, the abstraction determined 1960-76 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna; two years later he was invited again to the Venice Biennale and presented "Il capolavoro sconosciuto" (The Unknown Masterpiece) at the Tartaruga in Rome, a re-elaboration of Balzac's famous story of the same name. Meanwhile, at the end of the decade, the artist rediscovered the pleasure of painting and prepared the series Al mare and Quadri equestri. Several of his works were exhibited in 1979 at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara. In 1980 he was invited by Maurizio Calvesi to the exhibition Arte e critica 1980, held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, and the following year he was among the very few artists selected by Germano Celant for Identitè italienne, an exhibition organised at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris. Also from 1981 are the group of paintings collected under the title Cosmesi, followed by the cycles Architettura, Biplano, Orto botanico. He is still present at the Venice Biennale in 1982 and in 1984, the year in which he exhibits the cycle Naturale Sconosciuto presented by Alain Cueff at the Palazzo delle Prigioni Vecchie in the same Venetian city. The attention to the natural characterises all of Schifano's current research, as demonstrated by his subsequent exhibitions, including his solo shows at the Tour Fromage in Aosta and the Galerie Maeght in Paris (1988). In 1989, the year in which he took part in the exhibition Arte italiana nel XX secolo organised by the Royal Academy of London, he held solo shows at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and at the Padiglione d'arte Contemporanea in Ferrara, where, under the title Inventario con anima e senz'anima, he collected a series of canvases representing the summa of his research in the naturalistic field. The latter exhibition then became a travelling exhibition, touching on various Italian cities, and finally reaching France, at the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Saint Priest (1992). The Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, on the occasion of its reopening (1990), set up an exhibition entitled Divulgare, with a substantial number of large-format works created for the occasion. Three years later he presented in various Italian galleries the cycle Reperti, dedicated to animals from the prehistoric world, a theme whose first specimens had already appeared in Maeght's solo show. In 1994 he participated in the exhibition The Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968, organised by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and transferred the following year to the Triennale di Milano and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. In 1996 Schifano paid homage to his Auxiliary Muse, that is, to television as a continuous flow of images capable of structuring itself as the true and only totalized reality of our age. The artist has activated an Internet site, through which he relates to the world. If at the end of the Sixties he limited himself to extrapolating individual frames from television programmes and projecting them decontextualised onto the canvas, now, on the other hand, he intervenes on the images, changing their meaning even more. With about forty canvases of this kind and about a thousand hand retouched photographs, he set up a major exhibition which was first hosted at the Fondazione Memorial da Amèrica Latina in São Paulo, Brazil (1996), then at the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires (1997); during 1998 it will be presented at the Wifredo Lam Foundation in Havana and in Mexico City. During a trip to Brazil she made a happening inside a favela in Rio de Janeiro. In 1997, on the occasion of the seventh centenary of the construction of Santa Croce in Florence, Schifano was awarded the San Giorgio di Donatello Prize for his polychrome stained-glass windows in the crypt of the Basilica. In the same year, he took care of the scenographic staging of the carnival in Rome. He died in Rome on 26 January 1998.Read more Close