Zero, Four, Seven, Eight, Ten, Fifty, One hundred: these are the Arabic Numbers of Bolaffi Art Covers. Developed in the ’70s, they gather some of the most famous names of the international artistic scene. From Emilio Vedova to Henry Moore, Enrico Baj, Joan Mirò, including Arnaldo Pomodoro, Emilio Scanavino and Mauro Reggiani.
The arabic numbers are a symbolic representation, which is essential for the everyday life and the development of mathematics. They were born in India between 400 a.C. and 400 d.C., giving their name to the work of arabian mathematicians and astronomers (they call them “indian numbers”) who diffused them across Europe.
The arabic numbers from zero to ten
The series developed by Bolaffi starts with Number 0, created by Mauro Reggiani. The artist, born in Emilia Romagna region, is deemed to be one of the major exponents of the abstract art in Italy.
Reggiani was born in 1897 in Nonantola and, after war, moved to Milan. Here, he attended the Gruppo Novecento and took part in the Milione II Gallery, where the european abstract avant-garde met surrealism. He figures among the signers of the Abstract Art First Manifesto and between the ’30s onwards, his artworks become extremely powerful. The shapes mix up according to orthogonal directices and his palette, consisting in basic colors and towards more vivid nuances. In Number Zero the figure merges to vertical rigid stripes.
Emilio Vedova is the author of Studio Number 4. Born in Venezia in 1919 from a family of artisans and laborers, he was a self-taught painter ever since the ’30s. In 1942 he joined the movement against the 20th century, Corrente, which also Renato Guttuso and Renato Birolli belonged to. Affirmed antifascist, between 1944 and 1945 he took part in the Resistance movement. After war, he signed the Oltre Guernica Manifesto and was among the main founders of the Italian New Secession then New front for arts.
In the ’60s Vedova produced the series Plurimi, as in compositions in which painting combines with different backings, materials and techniques up to develop three-dimensional elements. These can be observed just by turning around it. Number 4 shows the typical signs of the gestual painting of Vedova. Furthermore, the cardboard is die-cut and bended in a way that makes the work trhree-dimensional.
Ennio Morlotti is the author of Number 6. He is deemed to be one of the most important naturalists of the 18th century. Morlotti was born in Lecco in 1910. After working as workman and accounting, he decided to take art studies that he completed first at the academy of Brera and then at the beaux arts in Florence.
In 1937 his stay in Paris was crucial for the development of his poetics. There, he came in contact with the artworks of Paul Cézanne, Chaïm Soutine, Georges Rouault and Fauves. Morlotti was one of the fewest Italians who saw Guernica at the Universal exposition of Paris. Thanks to that, he will bring to Italy reproductions and studies.
The Number 7 of the series is the Enrico Baj’s work. Born in Milan in 1924, Baj begins to study medicine, but soon after the Second World War he drops it to shift to Law. He gradutes and indeed becomes a lawyer. Simultaneously he approaches the Academy of Beauty Arts of Brera. He builds friendships with Italian and International poets and intellectuals such as André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Raymond Queneau, Edoardo Sanguineti, Umberto Eco. He often dedicates himself to the illustration of classical and modern texts. Started with an informal style, he soon shifts to other forms of expression.
In the ’50s he founds the Nuclear Painting movement and the International Movement for an Immaginist Bauhaus. He is the signer of the manifestos: Against style and Manifeste de Naples. He experiments different techniques , from dripping to collage, including marquetry. Baj is also influenced by Surrealism and Dadaism, but his attention to social subjects are always vivid.
Throughout his academic carrier, started in the ’20s, Moore receives several grants that allow him to attend prestigious courses at the college and visit Italy. Very well known as sculptor, he has his landmark in illustrations of vigorous volumes and curvy shapes.
Valerio Adami is the author of Number 9. Born in Bologna in 1935, Adami gets interested in painting since very young, gaining some practice in Venice with Felice Carena.
In the 50’s he becomes friend with Oskar Kokoschka and starts studying drawing at the accademy of Brera in Milan with Achille Funi. influenced by Francis Bacon, he started with expressionism to go back to figuration after confronting with the Pop Art, particularly with Roy Lichtenstein’s works. Truly convinced that painting needed a sort of pictures syntesis, he makes his paintings through cromatic brush strokes within net contours. He often paints inner environments and typical objects as symbols of modernity.
The Number 10 of the Arabic numbers series belongs to Arnaldo Pomodoro, one of the greatest italian contemporary sculptors. Born in Morciano di Romagna in 1926, he works in Pesaro as advisor for the reconstruction of public buildings until ’50s. At that time he attends the local Institute of Art and shows interest in scenography and goldsmiths.
Pomodoro’s artistic path begins in 1954, after moving to Milan, where he comes in contact with Lucio Fontana, Enrico Baj, Sergio Dangelo and other artists. In the same year he exhibits at the Montenapoleone Gallery. Famous on internazional level, he currently lives and works in Milan.
In his works every shape leads back to an euclidean solid such as a sphere, a cube, cylinder or a parallelepiped. Often its repetion seems to resemble the sequence of the notes in a music composition.
Fifty and One Hundread: the series’s end
The Number 50 is signed by Enrico Scanavino, originary of Genova and close to Spazialism, he started from a figurative language. Born in 1926, Scanavino lives and express his inner tension through art. Tension caused by different religious creeds of his parents: the theosophy of his father and the catholicism of his mother.
In 1942 he moves to Milan to attend Architecture, but the call to armies makes him leave his studies. His painting suffers a sudden change after his stay in London where he gets fascinated by Bacon, Sutherland and Matta’s works.
Scanavino’s reproduction of the ’50s is featured by the pictorical translation of his inner pain and the born of a distinctive sign which will follow him through the next years as in a stylized knot.
Since ’68 on he works even more in Calice Ligure, where he founded an artistic community that included among excellent activities, the ceramics.
Joan Mirò is the author of Number 100. Born in Barcellona in 1893, Mirò takes economy studies due to his father’s will. But after working as accounting for a short period, he has a nervous breakdown that leads him to dedicate to painting, his passion.
In the ’20s Mirò lives in Paris where he comes in contact with the most artistic environment of avant-guarde. Picasso, Tristan Tzara, Max Ernst, Jean Arpe, Pierre Bonnard. And obviously, with the surrealist groups gathered around Breton, Aragon, Eluard, Prevert and Péret. On the brink of the Spanish Civil War, he collects in Paris some money for the republican cause. However, he is forced to live the city due to the nazist envasion. An international artist described by “the most surrealist of us all“, Mirò has exhibited in Europe and worldwide. Nevertheless to gain some recognition in his home town he had to wait until the end of francoism.
His language is unique, as much as the symbols that charaterize his production (most of all, the woman and the birds). Both represent the pilars upon which it has been built the art of the 20th century.