Arte Povera: Art of Collaboration

March 20 - May 1, 2021
Magazzino Da Casa

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Detail of 'Lei e Lui - (Maria e Michelangelo),' 1968, painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel, 230 x 120 cm. Courtesy Archivio Pistoletto.

The 2021 lecture series titled Arte Povera: Art of Collaboration, ​curated by 2020-21 Scholar-in-Residence Teresa Kittler, re-examines what has traditionally been considered a male dominated art movement by examining collaboration and creative partnerships of figures associated with it. This series turns its attention to specific friendships and partnerships within the grouping to consider the extent to which collaboration forms part of the narrative of artistic production in Italy in the post-war period; contributors reflect on the ways in which dialogue and reciprocal ways of working transform our understanding of artistic practice; ask whether it is possible to think beyond the trope of the ‘muse’ when addressing the contribution of women as partners in the work of this period; and consider how exchanges with partners and critics visibly shaped the work of otherwise well-known male figures. These questions are explored through a number of case studies that include the artistic duo Mario and Marisa Merz—the only couple officially recognized as belonging to Arte Povera—alongside more informal exchanges such as that between Alighiero Boetti and Anne-Marie Sauzeau Boetti, and the longstanding friendship established between Luciano Fabro and the art critic, Carla Lonzi. These case studies will be framed within a broader reflection on these themes in literary and artistic production in the post-war period in Italy.

The lectures will be live streamed at the top of this page on their respective dates and times, where the detail of Michelangelo Pistoletto's Lei e Lui - (Maria e Michelangelo) is. No registration is required.

Details on each program and lecturer follow below:

The Power of Two: Inter-Gender Dialogue, Couples and Creative Partnerships in 20th-Century Italian Culture

Professor Lucia Re, Research Professor in the Department of Italian at UCLA

March 20, 2021, 12:00 pm EST

This talk traces the paradigms, patterns, challenges and rewards of inter-gender dialogue and creative partnership across literature and the arts in 20th century Italian culture. Starting with the Gabriele D’Annunzio-Eleonora Duse collaboration in the theater at the turn of the century, the talk will progress to fascist-era artistic couples and conclude with a look at artists and writers of the post-World War II period. Although women fought to move beyond traditionally subordinate roles, the age-old paradigms of woman as Muse on one hand, and of Pygmalion as the artist creator and educator of woman on the other, remained powerful and pervasive in Italy well into the 20th century. Yet even while operating largely within these restrictive male paradigms, women writers and artists found ways to challenge and subvert them, sometimes together with men. In the early 1970s, feminists such as art critic Carla Lonzi and visual artist Carla Accardi promoted separatism as a necessary prerequisite to establish women’s autonomous creativity. While these took different forms, dialogues across the gender divide and collaboration within artist couples continued to foster both male and female creativity in ways that are yet to be fully explored and understood, and that may require rethinking conventional definitions of aesthetic production. 

Mutually Impressed and Distanced: Luciano Fabro’s Creative Collaborations with Women

Dr. Sharon Hecker, Independent Scholar and Curator, Milan 

April 3, 2021, 12:00 pm EST

Dr. Sharon Hecker examines Luciano Fabro’s creative collaborations with women through photographs, videos and unpublished letters related to his art. Spanning from Fabro’s early collaborations with Carla Lonzi and Marinella Pirelli on the experimental performance video Indumenti (1966), to his sustained but less visible collaboration with his daughter, Silvia, and wife, Carla, throughout his career, Hecker will explore Fabro’s engagement with these individuals as both creative partners and subjects. Fabro’s imaginary alliances with mythical female figures such as Penelope and historical subjects like Nadezhda Mandelstam will provide further insight. All these collaborations relate to the idea of fidelity in a relationship, a theme that occupies an important place in Fabro’s art. Subsequently, this leads to Fabro’s notion of “commitment” as associated to memory, artistic expression, and one’s own creative process. According to Fabro, this involves the need for a productive separateness and distance that is necessary for differentiation. The lecture will underscore the complex dynamics at play between artist, artwork, critics, family members, and society at large.

Alighiero e Sauzeau Boetti

Dr. Teresa Kittler, Magazzino Italian Art’s 2020-2021 Scholar-in-Residence

April 17, 2021, 12:00 pm EST

In the late 1960s, Boetti’s practice became preoccupied with concepts of duality and collaboration. Early in his career, he rechristened himself Alighiero e Boetti, doubling his identity whilst establishing dialogue and exchange as a pillar of his creative process as for example with Afghan embroiderers on series such as Mappe. Dr. Teresa Kittler’s talk reflects on Boetti’s approach, paying close attention to his relationship with his wife, the feminist art critic, Sauzeau-Boetti. Kittler examines Sauzeau-Boetti’s longstanding contribution to the research and aesthetic decisions made by Boetti throughout the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on work explicitly co-authored with her (Classifying the thousand longest rivers in the world (1977)), as well as more informal contributions by Sauzeau-Boetti to underscore their artistic exchange and ‘partnership’, the term she used to describe her relationship with the artist.

Communion and Prophylaxis: Mario and Marisa Merz

Dr. Leslie Cozzi, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art

May 1, 2021, 12:00 pm EST

Dr Leslie Cozzi discusses the early sculpture and later work on paper of Mario Merz and Marisa Merz, lynchpins of the Turinese Arte Povera milieu. By analysing individual works in light of contemporary geopolitics, developments in Italian feminism, and the new domestic landscape of the period, the talk will explore how together the husband-and-wife pair engaged in a dialectic that enabled them to respond productively to one another’s practices while still maintaining their individual points of view. Paying particular attention to the problematic of separatism and the professional challenges facing women artists in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, the talk will offer a new reading that recasts Marisa Merz’s well-documented interest in alchemy and communion in terms of contemporary developments in reproductive health technology.

About Teresa Kittler

Teresa Kittler is a lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of York. Her research focuses on artistic practices since 1945 with a special interest in Italian postwar art. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the British Academy, Leverhulme, the British School at Rome and the Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA). Her work has been published by Oxford Art Journal, Bloomsbury and Peter Lang, amongst others. She has written on Marisa Merz for catalogues accompanying the exhibitions: Marisa Merz The Sky is a Great Place (Los Angeles Hammer Museum & Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017) and Entrare Nell’Opera (Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, 2019) and on Carla Accardi for the catalogue accompanying Senza Margine at the MAXXI (2021). She has also worked as Assistant Curator for the 10 Gwangju Biennale (2014) and as a curatorial assistant for Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan (Tate Modern, 2012).

About Lucia Re

Lucia Re (PhD in Comparative Literature, Yale University) is Research Professor of Italian and Gender Studies at UCLA. Her principal fields are modern and contemporary Italian literature and culture. Her interests include poetry and the novel, women writers and artists, feminist theory and criticism, neorealism, modernism, futurism, Italy and the Mediterranean, postcolonial literature, and literary translation. Her book Calvino and the Age of Neorealism won the 1992 Marraro Prize of the Modern Language Association. Her edition of Amelia Rosselli’s volume of poetry, War Variations (translated with Paul Vangelisti), was awarded the 2006 PEN USA literary translation award, as well as the Flaiano Prize for International Italian Studies. Prof. Re has published more than eighty scholarly articles and essays on authors and artists ranging from Gabriele d’Annunzio and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti to Benedetta Cappa, Eva Kühn Amendola, Rosa Rosà, Paola Masino, Anna Maria Ortese and Carla Vasio. She has translated into English works by Rosa Rosà and Dacia Maraini. Her study of contemporary Arte Povera artist Marisa Merz, entitled “The Mark on the Wall: Marisa Merz and a History of Women in Postwar Italy,” appeared in the volume Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space, edited by Connie Butler (Munich: Prestel, 2017) and published in conjunction with the 2017 Merz retrospective at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the MET Breuer in New York. Her most recent essays are “Italian Women Artists and Writers” in Handbook of International Futurism, ed. Günter Berghaus (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019), “A Mediterranean Woman Writer from Naples to Tangier: Female Storytelling as Resistance in Elisa Chimenti” in California Italian Studies (2019) (co-authored with Kelly Roso), and “Il vento passa: Anna Maria Ortese e il colonialismo europeo,” in La grande iguana: Scenari e visioni a vent’anni dalla Morte di Anna Maria Ortese. Ed. Angela Bubba (Rome: Aracne Editrice, 2020).

About Sharon Hecker

Sharon Hecker (BA Yale, PhD U.C. Berkeley), is an art historian and curator specializing in modern and contemporary Italian art. She is a leading authority on Medardo Rosso and has published extensively on Luciano Fabro, whose theoretical writings she translated for his retrospective at San Francisco MoMA. She has published on Lucio Fontana, Marisa Merz and Francesco Lo Savio. Hecker’s books include A Moment's Monument: Medardo Rosso and the International Origins of Modern Sculpture, awarded CAA’s Millard Meiss Publication Prize and translated into Italian. She co-edited with Marin Sullivan Postwar Italian Art History Today: Untying ‘The Knot’, with Silvia Bottinelli Lead in Modern and Contemporary Art, and edited Finding Lost Wax: The Disappearance and Rediscovery of an Ancient Casting Technique and the Experiments of Medardo Rosso. For her research, Hecker received awards from the Getty, Fulbright, and Mellon Foundations. She co-curated exhibitions at Harvard University Art Museums and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and is currently preparing an exhibition on Fontana’s ceramics at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (2025).

About Leslie Cozzi

Leslie Cozzi is the Associate Curator for Prints, Drawings & Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She was the 2017-2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Winner in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy in Rome, where she was at work on a manuscript about gender and sexuality in post-war and contemporary Italian art. Previously, she served as the Curatorial Associate at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum. In that capacity, she was responsible for research and daily management of various collections the museum oversees, including the Armand Hammer Permanent Collection, the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, and the Grunwald Center’s extensive collection of works on paper. She helped organize several recent exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, including William E. Jones: Imitation of ChristForrest Bess: Seeing Things InvisibleTea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880-1914Robert Heinecken: Object Matter; Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now; The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris; and Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space. Leslie received her BA in 2003 from Yale University, where she was awarded Distinction in the History of Art and the A. Conger Goodyear Senior Essay Prize. She received her PhD in 2012 from the University of Virginia. She was awarded a 2010-2011 Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in Italy for her dissertation, “Protagonismo e non: Mirella Bentivoglio, Carla Accardi, Carla Lonzi, and the Art of Italian Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.” Leslie has contributed to several exhibition catalogues, including most recently Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space; the Menil Collection’s publication of Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now, and the Pomona College Museum of Art’s exhibition catalogue for Pages: Mirella Bentivoglio, Selected Works, 1966-2012.  She has contributed to scholarly journals and anthologies and to artforum.com.