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Arte Povera and the Baroque

Building an International Identity

Laura Petican

This book explores the social history of contemporary Italian art with a focus on its relation to theories of national identity, cultural inheritance, and baroque historiography. Its scope encompasses Fascism’s involvement in the visual arts in the first half of the twentieth century and the regime’s deployment of the avant-garde as well as Italy’s interwar cultural isolation and Informale’s experimental works. The analysis of the «baroque-centric» vision of Arte Povera in the post-war era leads into the discussion of Italian artists’ relation to the cultural past. The baroque is employed as an historical, conceptual model involving notions of nature, space, tension, theatricality, time, materials and the senses, and is used to trace the trajectory of Italian art’s evolution in style and ideology in the twentieth century. The book examines the work of Arte Povera artists in the context of a persisting alternation between tradition and revolution and provides an alternate reading to analyses rooted in a materials-based interpretation.

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Summary .............................................................................................................. 7 Preface .................................................................................................................. 9 List of Figures ..................................................................................................... 11 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 13 1 Cultural Heritage in Post-War Italy ............................................................... 21 1.1 Socio-Political Context .......................................................................... 21 1.2 Tracing the Past: Fascism and Arte Povera’s Predecessors ................................................ 23 1.3 Revolutionary Visions: The Debate Between Neo-Realism and Abstraction .............................. 32 1.4 Informale and the Miracolo Italiano ....................................................... 36 1.5 An Historic, Contemporary Expression ................................................. 48 2 The Past in the Present .................................................................................. 53 2.1 Self-Awareness in the Post-War Era ...................................................... 56 2.2. Celant’s Launch ...................................................................................... 59 2.3 International Relations ........................................................................... 64 2.4 Mapping the Baroque in Arte Povera Scholarship ................................. 68 2.5 Towards the Baroque: Theoretical Considerations ................................ 89 3 Baroque-Centricity ........................................................................................ 97 64 A Baroque-Centric Arte Povera .................................................................. 131 4.1 Nature ................................................................................................... 131 4.2 Space .................................................................................................... 151 4.3 Tension and Theatricality ..................................................................... 172 4.4 Time ..................................................................................................... 186 4.5 Materials and the Senses ...................................................................... 201 5 The Past as Identity: Arte Povera and the Nation ........................................ 221 5.1 Assimilating the Past ............................................................................ 221 5.2 The Past According to Arte Povera and its Critics ............................... 232 5.3 National Identity Theory ...................................................................... 237 5.4 Reconciling Identity ............................................................................. 252 Conclusion ........................................................................................................ 257 Bibliography ..................................................................................................... 261

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