Baj, Italian (1924 - 2003)
Born in Milan on 31st October 1924, Enrico Baj was one of the
most important contemporary Italian artists. Playing a leading
role in the Fifties and Sixties avantgarde alongside Fontana,
Jorn, Manzoni and Klein, Baj established close ties with Max
Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, E. L. T. Mesens, and other artists of
the Cobra group, with New Realism, Surrealism and Pataphysics.
In 1951 in Milan, together with Dangelo and Dova, Baj founded
the "Nuclear Art" movement; in 1954, in opposition
to the systematic repetitiveness of stylistic formalism, along
with Asgern Jorn he founded the "Mouvement International
pour une Bauhaus Imaginiste” against the enforced rationalization
and geometric abstraction of art.
The polychromatic and mixed media collages pervaded by a playful
and ironic vein, constitute the symbol of the Milan-born artist's
satirical vein: the dismembering of form to express the deflagration
of matter and imagery.
Baj's work is divided into various periods, all marked by profane
irony and a constant pursuit of renewed form of expression:
playful, fun themes like those in "Mirrors, furniture,
meccano constructions, ladies, modifications, d’apres
(Gli specchi, i mobili, i meccani, le dame, le modificazioni,
i d’apres" become part and parcel of a denouncement
of violence and decline. From the very first representations
of the nuclear period (1951) he showed a commitment to fighting
all forms of aggression which, through the grotesque collages
entitled “Generals (Generali 1959)” and "Military
parades (Le parate militari)", led to three great works:
"The funeral of the anarchist Pinelli (I funerali dell’anarchico
Pinelli 1972)", "Nixon parade" (1974) and "The
Apocalypse (L’Apocalisse 1979)". With "Epater
le robot" (1983) and "Mannequins (Manichini 1984-87)"
Baj stepped up criticism of contemporary society and the indiscriminate
use of technology, while with "Metamorphosis and metaphors
(Metamorfosi e metafore 1988)", "Mythology of Kitsch
(Mitologia del Kitsch 1989)" and "Garden of delights
(Il giardino delle delizie)" he denounced the corruption
of taste brought about by the culture of industrial products.
In 1993 he began the series of "Tribal masks (Maschere
tribali)", "Felts (Feltri)" and "Totems
(Totem)". In 1999 he created 164 portraits of the Guermantes
from Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.
The close relationship between painting and literature was always
an endless source of inspiration for Baj. Evidence of his relationship
with poets and literary intellectuals, both Italian and foreign,
can be seen in a series of fifty artist's books, complete with
prints and many other books, ranging from the work or poets
of the classical age like Lucretius, Martial, Tacitus and increasingly
more recent authors, including: Lewis Carrol, John Milton, André
Breton, Edoardo Sanguineti, Roberto Sanesi, Umberto Eco, Alda
Merini. He also made memorable contributions to the world of
theatre with his famous marionettes created for Alfred Jarry's
"Ubu Roi" in 1984.
A restless artist and intellectual, Baj constantly wove together
his creative work with intellectual reflections on art. Midway
through the Fifties, he contributed to the magazines "Il
Gesto" and "Phases". He published numerous books,
including “Patafisica”, “Automitobiografia”,
”Impariamo la pittura”, “Fantasia e realtà”
with publishing company Guttuso, “Ecologia dell'arte”.
He wrote, particularly during the Eighties, for major newspapers
and magazines, including “Il sole 24 ore” and “Corriere
His works have been exhibited in the world's leading museums
and art galleries.
Enrico Baj died in Vergiate (Varese)on 16th June 2003.