Un Atlante di Arte Nuova. Emilio Villa e l’Appia Antica


“To artists, young and old, we utter the admonition: everything has been done, and nothing has been done; so everything has to be done, and there is nothing that cannot be done.” Emilio Villa

The catalogue expands the contents of the exhibition presented at the Capo Bove Complex of the Appia Antica Archaeological Park (26 June – 19 September 2021), which highlights a little-known but extraordinary page of twentieth-century art. The exhibition finally restores to the Appia Antica gallery and to the figure of its charismatic director Emilio Villa, poet and critic, a brilliant and anomalous figure in the Italian cultural landscape, the importance and visibility they deserve. The gallery, opened by Liana Sisti in a farmhouse at 20 Via Appia, in the three-year period 1957-1959 hosted exhibitions of extraordinary importance. We need only remember the one devoted to Cesare Tacchi, Renato Mambor and Mario Schifano, or the one of the three Milanese artists in Rome (Bonalumi, Castellani and Manzoni), with a focus on creations that are little studied because they were transitional, anticipating the works of the 1960s.
The catalogue and the exhibition also reinterpret the work of certain Italian artists (the sculptors Franchina and Mannucci for example) featured in the pages of the magazine “Appia Antica. Atlante di Arte Nuova”, whose editorial team shared the gallery’s address.

The spaces of the gallery and the pages of the magazine provided a favorable ground for looking at established artists, such as Alberto Burri, Toti Scialoja and Giulio Turcato, in a more authentic light, and their reflection on the work of art and its material as object.

They were also an authoritative showcase for the research conducted by the younger generation of artists (Schifano, Manzoni, Rotella, Lo Savio and Mauri), who conducted a wholly Italian recovery of the avant-gardes.

The volume consists of several essays (including that by Andrea Cortellessa on Emilio Villa and the art of writing art), with an extensive documentary apparatus (historical photos, letters, reproductions of exhibition catalogues and the review), plus an anthology of texts by Emilio Villa, biographical profiles and the critical reception of the artists present.

Finally, it analyzes to what extent this experience was the vehicle for a distinctive approach to American Abstract Expressionism in Rome (in the years when Hollywood also came to the Tiber and the Via Appia) in a key to interpretation that focuses on formal languages.

21 x 28
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