|Born||March 4, 1912|
|Died||July 24, 1976 (aged 64)|
|Occupation||Painter and educator|
Afro Libio Basaldella (March 4, 1912 – July 24, 1976) was an Italian painter and educator in the post-World War II period. He began as a member of the Scuola Romana, and worked together with Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana. He was generally known by the single name, "Afro".
Early life and education
Born on March 4, 1912 in Udine, Italy. Afro first showed his work when he was sixteen, alongside the paintings of his artist brothers, Dino and Mirko. Two years later he and Dino won a scholarship to study art in Rome, under a stipend from the Marangoni Arts Foundation in Udine.
By 1933 he was exhibiting, along with fellow Friulians Bosisio, Pittino e Taiuti, at the Galleria del Milione in Milan. In 1935 he participated in the Rome Quadriennale art exhibition, and he showed his work several times at the Venice Biennale. Afro followed the School of Rome, creating murals. In 1936, he received a commission to paint for the Udine opera house. In 1937, collaborating with Corrado Cagli, he works on large murals for the World Exhibition held in Paris.
Afro's first personal exhibition was held in 1937 at the Galleria del Cometa in Rome. He traveled to the island of Rhodes to paint frescoes for the Hôtel des Roses. In 1941, he was awarded a lectureship for mosaic painting at the Venetian Academy of Fine Arts. By the late 1930s, Afro's painting began a migration from a crisp realist style to increasingly cubist, expressionistic, and abstract painting. After the war, his paintings, retain figurative titles, but reflect increasing neo-cubist patches, influenced by his exposure to Arshile Gorky in New York.
In 1950, he travelled to New York City, and began a twenty-year collaboration with the Catherine Viviano Gallery. Dore Ashton wrote about Afro in 1955 in Art Digest: “Like most Italians, Afro knows how to celebrate. The fanciful, ebullient side of his nature emerges in the high-keyed recent paintings—those in which he allowed himself the most freedom and spontaneity to date. In these, he celebrates the delights of senses”.
Afro was shown in an exhibition called The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, which toured the United States. His work was included at documenta 1 in Kassel, Germany. Afro aligns with Mattia Moreni, Antonio Corpora, Ennio Morlotti, Renato Birolli, Giuseppe Santomaso, Giulio Turcato, and Emilio Vedova, previous members of the "Fronte nuovo delle Arti", together they form the "Gruppo degli Otto" (Group of Eight) also known as "Otto Pittori Italiani" (The Italian Eight).
By the mid-1950s Afro's art was obtaining worldwide reputation, and he received the honor of Best Italian Artist at the 1956 Venice Biennale.
In 1957, he was recruited by Leon Kirchner to teach for eight months at Mills College in Oakland, California. While artist-in-residence at the school he made a mural for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and was included amongst works by Appel, Arp, Calder, Matta, Miró, Picasso and Tamayo. It was titled The Garden of Hope, a large scale minimalist painting in many shades of brown.
Afro continued to show his work internationally. He was invited to the second documenta, and held exhibitions at MIT and numerous European museums. He won first prize at the Carnegie Triennial in Pittsburgh and the Italian prize at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Guggenheim bought his 1957 painting Night Flight. In 1961, Guggenheim curator James Johnson Sweeney published a monograph on his work, where he wrote: “His color is sensuous, warm—never cold; fluid, not structural; free-edged, never sharply contoured. Light and color, shadow and shape achieve a suggested space effect through their ordering and flood it with the glories of his great predecessors: this festive spirit, this celebration of light and life—of life through light”.
Death and legacy
- Brandi, Cesare (1963). Afro (Exhibition Catalogue). Catherine Viviano Gallery.
- Crispolti, Enrico (1987). Dino, Mirko, Afro Basaldella (in Italian). Milano, Italy: Gabriele Mazzotta Editore. ISBN 978-8820207519.
- Graziani, Mario (1997). Catalogo Generale Ragionato dai Documenti dell'Archivio Afro (Exhibition Catalogue) (in Italian). Curated by Mario Graziani, Preface by Isabella Reale. Rome: DataArs Scaletta, Galleria La Scaletta.
- Drudi, Barbara (2012). Afro, Dal progetto all'opera (Exhibition Catalog) (in Italian). Gli Ori, Museo Carlo Bilotti. ISBN 978-8873364931.
- "Afro Biography". www.artnet.com. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- Gopnik, Blake (2012-04-20). "Afro at Haunch of Venison is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- "Afro (Afro Basaldella) biography". The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Collection. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
- "Dino Basaldella". The New York Times. 1977-01-09. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- Marks, Claude (1984). World Artists 1950-1980. 1. p. 765. ISBN 9780824207076.
- "Gruppo degli Otto". Ketterer Kunst, Art auctions, Book auctions Munich, Hamburg & Berlin. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
- Riggs, Robert (2010). Leon Kirchner: Composer, Performer, and Teacher. Volume 78 of Eastman studies in music. University Rochester Press. p. 89. ISBN 9781580463430.
- "AFRO BASALDELLA (1912-1976): JARDIN DE L'ESPERANCE, 1958". UNESCO works of art collection. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- de Barrin, Jacques (2009). UNESCO: The Seeds of Peace. Unesco. p. 44. ISBN 9789231041044.
- "Taking Up The Palette". Newspapers.com. Tampa Bay Times. September 19, 1965. p. 144. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
- Kimmelman, Michael (1994-10-07). "ART REVIEW; From Postwar Italy, With Style". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-04.