AFRO BASALDELLA: THE EBULLIENT PAINTER OF ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM

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Migrating from the crisp realist style to increasingly cubist, expressionistic abstraction, the ebullient paintings by Afro Libio Basaldella are unique for their fluid signs,  rounded contours and brighter palette.

Beginning as a member of the Scuola Romana, the Italian painter was born on March 4, 1912, in Udine. Afro studied in Venice and Florence and in 1930 he moved to Rome for further studies. In 1932 he was in Milan and in 1933 he exhibited at the Galleria del Milione. In 1934, Afro returned to Rome and gets in contact with the artists related to the Galleria della Cometa of Libero and with Corrado Cagli. In 1935 he exhibited at the Quadriennal of Rome and in 1936 at the Venice Biennial.

In 1937, Afro worked for the decorations of the International Exhibition in Paris together with Cagli. From 1945, after a brief expressionist period, Afro's paintings took a new direction and a linear and coloristic synthesis found in his paintings. In 1952 he joined the Gruppo degli Otto Pittori Italiani and exhibited at the Venice Biennial with the group.

Afro's late 1950s work testify to his growing interest in Abstract Expressionism, amplified with his friendship with Willem de Kooning and his visits to United States. Afro's paintings of the 1960s were increasingly gestural, a tendency that he reversed at the decade when his work became more synthetic and geometric. In 1960, Guggenheim curator James Johnson Sweeney wrote, “His color is sensuous, warm-never cold; fluid not structural; freed edges 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”.

Afro participated in many international exhibitions. He completed a large scale mural for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1958) and had solo shows at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1960) and Galerie de France, Paris(1961), as well as a retrospective at Kunsthalle Darmstadt, West Germany (1969).

Afro's awards include a prize for best Italian painter at the Venice Biennial (1956) and a Guggenheim International Award (1960). In 1968, he was appointed professor at the Accademia di Belle Arti  in Florence but leaved the post in 1971 for health reasons. Afro died on July 24, 1976 in Zurich.


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