The Politics of Labor in Postwar Italian Art

The Politics of Labor in Postwar Italian Art

Magazzino Italian Art

March 3, 2022
The Politics of Labor in Postwar Italian Art
March 19–April 30, 2022, 3pm
Magazzino Italian Art
2700 U.S. 9
Cold Spring, New York 10516
United States
Hours: Saturday–Sunday 11am–5pm

T +1 845 666 7202
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As part of its spring season, Magazzino Italian Art Foundation will present a four-part lecture series examining the idea of artistic labor as it was (re)conceived by the members of Arte Povera during the 1960s and ’70s. The series will consider how artists of the period challenged traditional methods of production and systems of value, framing their experimentation within the broader socio-political unrest of the period as protests against industrialization, consumerism, and class inequality swept across Italy. 

The lectures will last approximately 45 minutes and be followed by a Q&A session. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Guests must be able to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend. 

Details on each program and lecturer follow below:​

Notes on Making: Art, Labor, and Language in Postwar Rome
March 19, 2022, 3–5pm
Katie Larson, Magazzino’s 2022 Scholar-in-Residence, Assistant Professor of Art History at Baylor University.

Dr. Katie Larson’s talk will examine the role of art, labor, and language in the work of Emilio Villa, Alberto Burri, Giorgio Ascani (Nuvolo), Mimmo Rotella, and Jannis Kounellis. Villa—a poet and critic—serves as the linchpin for this research. Throughout his career, he collaborated with and promoted the art of this diverse group of individuals. Emphasizing the labor of creative production, Villa sought to contribute to Italy’s reconstruction by making and supporting art that emphasized the artist’s role in society as an active agent for change. 

Make Art, Not Soup. Reconfiguring Domestic Labor through Collage and Ready-mades in Postwar Italy
April 2, 2022, 3–5pm
Silvia Bottinelli, Senior Lecturer and Interim Chair of the Visual and Material Studies Department, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.

This lecture reflects on the practice of Italian artists that, from the 1960s to the 1990s, addressed domestic labor by reassembling images and objects. By rearranging materials available in the home space—from magazines to appliances—Ketty La Rocca, Lucia Marcucci, Milli Gandini, and Mirella Bentivoglio, among others, shifted the meanings of consumer products designed to achieve efficiency. As highlighted by theorist and activist Silvia Federici, 1970s feminists understood women’s unpaid domestic labor, along with racial exploitation, as one of the pillars on which capitalism proliferated. Thus, making art (not soup) became a form of opposition to the system—a “refusal to work,” as in the contemporaneous tactics of the Autonomia movement.

Icons and Indexes of Labor in Postwar Italy
April 16, 2022, 3–5pm
Adrian Duran, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

This presentation will focus upon the conflicted middle decades of the 20th century, exploring images and indexes of labor from the second World War through to the early-1960s, immediately before the emergence of Arte Povera at decade’s end. Both figurative and abstract trends will be examined, including the work of Armando Pizzinato, Renato Guttuso, Emilio Vedova, Carla Accardi, Alberto Burri, Leoncillo Leonardi, Lucio Fontana, and Piero Manzoni. Employing this notion of labor as a discursive binder, this presentation hopes to both illuminate key protagonists of the period—many of whom must be understood as anticipatory of the impulses of Arte Povera—and use this layered understanding of labor as a means by which to re-envision the narratives of mid-20th century Italian art. 

Material Matters: Artistic Labor in Giuseppe Penone’s Sculpture
April 30, 2022, 3–5pm
Elizabeth Mangini, Chair and Associate Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture Program at California College of the Arts.

This lecture will explore a selection of Giuseppe Penone’s works, from the late 1960s to the present, in order to understand his repositioning of artistic making as a negotiation of forces, rather than domination of raw materials. Some projects propose the artist as a relatively passive force and the material as active one, while others demonstrate an interdependent entanglement. Such projects are rooted in aesthetic concerns, yet they inevitably reflect aspects of the social and intellectual milieu of 1960s-1970s Italy, in which bodies and time figured predominantly in ongoing debates about labor, political power, and human experience.

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Magazzino Italian Art
March 3, 2022

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