Medardo Rosso, Issue 6, December 2021

A brief overview of the sixth issue of Italian Modern Art, dedicated to Medardo Rosso.

The sixth issue of Italian Modern Art offers new assessments on the life and work of Medardo Rosso (1858-1928), the subject of CIMA’s second exhibition season. The research at the core of all these essays was presented during conferences and scholarly panels that had been organized in the context of the exhibition, such as the Rosso Reconsidered session at the 2015 CAA Conference (February 12, 2015) and the Medardo Rosso Study Day at CIMA (May 15, 2015).

The issue opens with important articles that reconstruct Rosso’s fortune in the United States after World War 2. Francesco Guzzetti’s essay focuses on Rosso’s 1963 MoMA exhibition, which was accompanied by the publication of a monograph on the artist, written by Margaret Scolari Barr. Guzzetti’s article offers a comprehensive overview of Rosso’s reception and exhibition history in the United States prior to 1963, and a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded the research for both Scolari’s book and Peter Selz’s curation of MoMA’s exhibition. Besides providing a compelling portrait of Scolari Barr’s critical acumen, the essay takes a deep dive into the dense network of critics, collectors, and curators that made the fortune of Medardo Rosso in the United States in the postwar era. Furthermore, the article is accompanied by an extensive appendix that reconstructs in great detail the planning phases of the 1963 exhibition, and includes detailed descriptions of every artwork in the exhibition.

Anticipating the MoMA show by just a few years, Chiara Fabi’s article focuses instead on Medardo Rosso’s exhibition at the Peridot Gallery, the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States, and a fundamental passage in securing Rosso’s fame as a precursor of the Futurists. Fabi’s article illustrates the renewed interest in modern Italian art that followed the conclusion of World War 2, and further analyzes the web of gallerists, collectors, critics and curators that secured the attention of MoMA just a few years later.

Following CIMA’s longstanding mission to foster new dialogue on lesser known Italian artists, Medardo Rosso (October 6, 2017 to June 23, 2018) proved to be a key exhibition in the reassessment of Rosso’s work. For the first time, his serial sculptures were displayed alongside a number of his drawings and experimental photographs, a curatorial choice that allowed scholars, critics and curators to assess the interplay between these different media and the complexity of Rosso’s creative process. Building upon her curatorial role in the context of the exhibition, Laura Mattioli’s essay provides new insights into Rosso’s life-size work. Her article highlights the importance of photography in revealing Rosso’s vision for these works, as he continued to rework the images even after most of the life-size sculptures were destroyed or lost.

Questions of vision, spatial representation and the relationship between reality and sculpture are also at the center of Maria Elena Versari’s essay, which is dedicated to the impact that Rosso had on Italian modernism, and in particular on Futurism. Versari illustrates the role that Ardengo Soffici had in securing Rosso’s critical fortune, and the importance of Rosso’s work in Boccioni’s theoretical pronouncements; in so doing, the scholar also highlights a number of divergent understandings of key terms such as “atmosphere” between Rosso and Boccioni, revealing how the latter’s benevolent appraisal of Rosso continues to require attentive scrutiny. 

The issue concludes with the publication of key, original texts by Rosso: these letters, interviews and short essays reveal the artist’s views on his work, that of his contemporaries, practical as well as theoretical considerations about the process of art creation. These texts have previously been published in English translation, but the books in which they were published have become exceedingly hard to find in public and research libraries. This electronic publication, authorized by Rosso family, hopes at ameliorate this situation. Readers will find the original prose, in Italian or  French, followed by an English translation that has been revised for accuracy, and might provide a point of departure for the work of young scholars.

This issue of CIMA’s journal comes with a new design of the essays’ pdf versions, aimed at improving their offline and print legibility.

CIMA wishes to acknowledge Daniel Lowe, Nicola Lucchi, and Maïlyse Valentin for their dedication and commitment to the publication of this issue, and thanks Danila Marsure Rosso for the kind permission to publish the images of Rosso’s work as well as the letters and articles in translation.

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