FROM DEPERO TO ROTELLA: ITALIAN COMMERCIAL POSTERS BETWEEN ADVERTISING AND ART
February 16 - June 10, 2023
Friday and Saturday: 11am to 6pm (last entry at 5pm). Guided tours: 11am and 2pm
Members-only hours: Monday-Thursday by appointment
General admission: $15 for guided tours; $10 for open hours
Members & students: free
The exhibition examines the cross-pollination between avant-garde art and commercial posters in Italy, with a particular focus on the interwar years and the early post-World War II era, during the country’s economic boom.
With a starting date in 1926 (the year in which Depero exhibited the Venice Biennale a “quadro pubblicitario”, Squisito al selz) and an ideal closing date in 1957 (the year in which the television advertising show Carosello first aired on Italy’s public tv network RAI), the exhibition will illustrate how the design of Italian commercial posters moved hand in hand with the artistic currents of its times. While poster art has often been described as derivative in character, the show will demonstrate how, from Futurism onwards, Italian posters acquired a visual and communicative force that elevated the medium to a form of artistic expression in its own right, pushing the boundaries of lithographic techniques, photomontage, and typography. The commercial posters’ peculiar ambition to deliver alluring forms and contents to the masses, rather than to an elite circle, also makes them an object of socioeconomic and philosophical interest.
The exhibition will include some 30 posters from major Italian institutions and corporate collections, as well as a few, select private collections in the United States. Among the artists featured: Erberto Carboni, Fortunato Depero, Nikolai Diulgheroff, Lucio Fontana, Max Huber, Bruno Munari, Marcello Nizzoli, Bob Noorda, Giovanni Pintori, Xanti Schawinsky, Mario Sironi, Albe Steiner. The works of these individuals illustrated the products of companies that made the history of the Italian economy, such as Barilla, Campari, Olivetti, Fiat, Pirelli.
As a visual and conceptual counterpoints to the narrative path traced by the commercial posters, the exhibition will also include a few artworks by Mimmo Rotella. An artist in the traditional sense of the word, Rotella’s décollages and retro d’affiches turn the medium of the commercial poster onto itself, in a gesture of critique and self-reflection.
The show is curated by Nicola Lucchi, PhD. Nicola is the Executive Director of the Center for Italian Modern Art; he oversees the institution’s fellowship program, the calendar of cultural events, and serves as Managing Editor for the Center’s online scholarly journal. Prior to joining CIMA, Nicola worked as Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian at Dickinson College and Lecturer of Italian at CUNY’s Queens College. He has published scholarly articles, book chapters and catalog essays on Futurism, on the relationship between poetry and the visual arts, and on Bruno Munari, in the scholarly volume Bruno Munari. The Lightness of Art. He has also curated an exhibition on Futurist manifestos and ephemera at Queens College’s Rosenthal Library, and on propaganda art in Italy at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. He received a PhD in Italian Studies from NYU in 2016.