Franco Angeli | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books




Franco Angeli, real name Giuseppe (Rome, 14 May 1935 - Rome, 12 November 1988), was an Italian painter. Self-taught, he approached abstract-material art, experimenting with various techniques and materials in a research aimed at overcoming the informal. He was part of the "School of Piazza del Popolo" with Mario Schifano and Tano Festa.
Franco Angeli was born in Rome on May 14, 1935 in Via dei Piceni in the district of San Lorenzo, by Gennaro Gennarini, antifascist, and Erminia Angeli, from whom, like the brothers Omero and Otello, takes the surname. In order to provide for the sick mother, Angeli starts working at the age of nine: first as a storekeeper, then in a body shop and in a tapestry, where she learns how to use fabrics, shapes and cut-outs, which she will bring back to her works. To these commitments is added also that in a radio broadcast, where he sings for the Allies. Angeli, although not attending regular art studies, began painting in 1957, the year in which he left for military service in Orvieto: "When a person has a deep malaise, he must look for a way not to be alone anymore, he must ultimately , to find an interest that accompanies it for life" will tell later.

Back in Rome, at the Granatieri barracks in the Prati district, in 1955 he came into contact with the sculptor Edgardo Mannucci, who attended until 1957, a friend of Alberto Burri. In that period, in fact, he approached the informal art of Alberto Burri, of which he appreciated the ability to use materials and shapes.

Angeli remains deeply fascinated by the work of the latter, so as to take back the materiality worn by the Catrams. Not by chance, referring to the work E from a wound came the beauty (1957) - which is registered in its very first production and which is inspired by the memory of the trauma experienced the night of the bombing of San Lorenzo, July 19, 1943 - will say : «The subject for me is a fragment of this enormous laceration that has swept through Europe; my first paintings were like that, like a wound from which I take off pieces of bandage [...] where the blood has clung but is no longer a red stain". These first approaches to painting are also marked by militancy in the Communist Party: it is inscribed in the Italian Communist Party, knowing in the section of Campo Marzio, first Tano Festa and, later, Mario Schifano with whom he shares the experience and the drama of war . Abandon this political position after the invasion of Hungary, demonstrating closer to the extra-parliamentary left and the Maoist movements. In 1959 he exhibited his first works in the collective at the "La Salita" Gallery in Rome with Festa e Uncini. In 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. In those years he also attended the Rosati bar where he established significant relationships with Renato Guttuso, Pino Pascali, Jannis Kounellis and Fabio Mauri. "They were young, beautiful, talented and on canvas they painted on equal terms 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 the square del Popolo, supported by visionary gallery owners like Plinio De Martiis and passionate collectors like Giorgio Franchetti ".

In 1960 he inaugurated his first solo exhibition at the same "Galleria La Salita" in Rome with a series of works characterized by oil painting veils and tense nylon stockings, covered with gauze, similar to memories and absences that Cesare Vivaldi describes as « tears of things". In the same year, still at the Salita, he took part in the collective 5 painters. Rome 60: Angels, Festa, Lo Savio, Schifano, Uncini by Pierre Restany. Angeli wins the Award of encouragement to artists of the Ministry of Education and participates as a protagonist in the first short film by Mario Carbone, Inquietudine, in which he illustrates his own particular pictorial technique. In 1962, he participated in the exhibition "New Perspectives of Italian Painting" at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna, where he presented a series of works in which the symbols of power began to appear, initially swastikas, crosses and mezzelune. "As Boatto writes, covering his symbols with a veil, Angeli tended to alter its objective violence" [7], the violence of real events which for him take on central importance and which does not cease to pass into one's own works; just think of the series of Cemeteries of the early sixties, sequences of white crosses that recall the power of the Mauri Screens and the Achrome by Pietro Manzoni, with whom he was in close contact. Angeli portrays the fragments of history and seems to keep track of contemporary events, giving life to works like O.A.S. (All bad the Germans) (1961, from the initials of the illegal paramilitary organization), Cuba (1960, linked to the embargo imposed by the United States against the island shortly after the revolutionary forces of Fidel Castro overthrew the Baptist dictatorship), 25 July (1964, which commemorates the day of the fall of fascism in 1943).

In 1963 he exhibited in the collective 13 painters in Rome at the La Tartaruga Gallery by Plinio De Martiis with a poem by Nanni Balestrini. In the same year he exhibited at the Galleria J in Paris exhibiting his works in a collective exhibition entitled "L'Object Pressenti", among which Bruce Conner, Christo, Kudo, Mauri, Todd, by Pierre Restany. Shortly thereafter, in June, he inaugurated a solo show at Galleria La Tartaruga presenting a series of works in which the symbolic value - expired, customary or even tragic - acquires a different greeting dimension, building on the legacy of the informal. Also in 1963, he also collaborated with Mario Diacono and Elio Pagliarani on the production of numbered volumes with autographs and original drawings.

In 1964, for the solo exhibition at the Galleria dell'Ariete in Milan in January 1964, Angeli uses stereotypical ideological symbols, taken from urban furniture, synthesizing the rhetorical and celebrative character of the finds of an eternal and capital Rome: "My first paintings are the testimony of daily contact with the road. I saw the Ruins, the Tombstones, ancient and modern symbols such as the Eagle, the Swastika, the Scythe and Hammer, obelisks, Roman Lupe statues, release enough energy to face the pictorial adventure ». These fragments are the Capitoline fragments that he will present at the Arco d'Alibert Art Studio in Rome in October 1964, while in March he exhibits with Bignardi, Festa, Fioroni, Kounellis, Lombardo, Mambor and Tacchi at La Tartaruga Gallery. In the same year he participated in the Venice Biennale presented by Maurizio Calvesi exposing the paintings "La Lupa" and "Quarder Dollar", subjects that characterized many of his later works.

The following year he was one of the protagonists of the One Generation exhibition at the Odyssia Gallery in Rome; in the fall he exhibited almost simultaneously in two solo shows - at the Galerie J in Paris and at the Galleria Zero in Verona -, at the IX National Quadriennale of Art in Rome and in the exhibition L'art actuel en Italie: semaines italiennes at the Casino Municipal in Cannes. Around these years there is a series of tazebao (Compagni, Berlin 1945, Vietnamese Companion, Occupation of an equestrian monument and eternal Embrace) in whose extreme revolutionary poetics Dario Micacchi identifies a politically doing painting, or a "seeing and showing politically the reality". «Angels has found in the coin the" small symbolic world "that for years had been looking for and believed to have found in the flags, then in the coats of arms, then in the lapidary inscriptions. The currency, 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 exchanges, even if it is only the symbol of a symbol"; this is shown by the personal title entitled Half Dollar which Angeli inaugurates at the Arco d'Alibert in Rome in January 1966 and the exhibits at the exhibitions Italian artists of today in BucharestSpects of contemporary Italian art at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and Modern Kunst aus Italien in Dortmund. In October he inaugurates America America (Half Dollar) at the Galleria dell'Ariete, presenting large golden eagles veiled in shades of blue, white and red. The same title is used for the solo exhibition at the Arco d'Alibert Art Studio in Rome, inaugurated in March 1967; in April he participates in the collective 8 Roman painters at the Galleria de 'Foscherari in Bologna and in June at the exhibition Eleven Italian artists of the Sixties as part of the 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 romantic relationship. Those years are characterized by the abuse of alcohol and drugs that make him and the other members of the "School of Piazza del Popolo" a group of "cursed" artists. In September he participates in the IX Biennial of São Paulo in Brazil and makes his first Reading Days, followed by a long research and admixture between video, photography and visual arts, as witnessed by Schermi (1968), New York (1969), Long live May Day (1968), Souvenir (1984), just to name a few. At that time he approached photography, mainly in black and white, privileging intimate subjects and in particular Marina Ripa di Meana and his 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 Pio 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 film "Morire gratis" by Sandro Franchina. In January 1969 he is exhibiting for the first time in the United States, where he will exhibit in the 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 exhibited in a solo show at the Galleria dell'Ariete (in January) and in the collective 'Anno '60 at the Galleria Christian Stein in Turin (in April). In the early seventies Angels, continuing the research on the real datum, opened his own painting to the series of landscapes From the Appenini to the Andes and popular song of the Andes, of geometric inspiration, dedicated to the Chilean coup of 11 September 1973; it takes up the theme of the Vietnam war in the works of the Anonymous Eurasian (1969), Compagni (Giap and Ho Chi Minh) and Vietcong (1971) and also deals with the coup in Greece. In 1975 he met his life partner, Livia Lancellotti, who gave him his daughter Maria in 1976.

In 1978 he took part in the Venice Biennale curated by Achille Bonito Oliva. In the eighties, Franco Angeli devotes himself more to figuration: capitals, deserted squares and "marionettes", the latter interpreted as self-portraits. In fact, they begin to appear in his landscapes "the airplanes, childishly joyful, that bring death to Vietnam", which seem to recall the bombings of World War II: "It is in fact evident to him, for those who know him and because of this attitude he attends the narrative tension in which the personal experiences 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 planes that will then become real explosions (1986). The forms become stylized and leave spiers, capitals and squares deserted as in "a grandiose and poignant sense of excavation during which history and existence re-emerge as perfect and unaltered solid geometries that radiate new colors of life fresh, fragrant, pure green , blue, red ». The theme of the "marionette", frequent since 1984, is a sort of self-portrait that seems to be a prelude to the final phase of his life. In fact, Angeli died in Rome on 12 November 1988.