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

March 20, 2021
Magazzino Da Casa

Magazzino Italian Art presents a four-part lecture series Arte Povera: Art of Collaboration curated by 2020-21 Magazzino Scholar-in-Residence Teresa Kittler.

In the first lecture of the series, 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, 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.

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).