A pivotal figure of the Italian art informel movement, Emilio Vedova championed artistic gesture and unconventional materials, and agitated against rational, geometric abstraction. During the rule of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), an important ally of the Nazis, Vedova was actively involved in the struggle against fascism, joining the Milanese anti-fascist artist group Corrente (1938-43) and later the Italian resistance movement. Having gained international recognition after the war, Vedova left his longtime home of Venice to work briefly in Berlin, where he produced Berlin ’64 (1964), from 1963 to 1964.
Berlin ’64 continues Vedova’s concerns rooted in art informel, questioning the limits of both painting and sculpture by merging them into codependency in this collage. The composition marries items from everyday life – magazine clippings, a broken hinge, wood scraps, and iron rods – into a chaotic space of ruin. Importantly, Vedova’s artistic practice in Berlin occurred in the wake of both the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and West Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle), during which the nation saw rapid reconstruction and development alongside widespread promotion of consumer capitalism. Here, construction materials and mass news media are all leveled as waste, as if to reject not only the semblance of a unified society that produces everyday consumer relations, but also to deny the elevated aesthetic status historically accorded to the fine art object.
Emilio Vedova was a modernist painter and a pioneer in Italy’s art informel movement. In the mid-1930s he spent time in Rome and Florence. He joined the Milanese anti-Fascist artists’ association Corrente in 1942, and from 1944 to 1945 he worked for the Italian resistance. In 1946 he signed the “Al di là di Guernica" (Beyond Guernica) manifesto and co-founded the Nuova Secessione Italiana (New Italian Secession) in Venice. Vedova first exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 1948, and later received the Grand Prize for Painting (1960) and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (1997). In the early 1950s his style shifted from geometric abstraction to a spontaneous, gestural informalism. His series include “Scontro di situazioni” (Collision of Situations), “Ciclo della Protesta” (Protest Cycle), and “Cicli della Natura” (Cycles of Nature). His first solo show outside Italy was at the Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York (1951). In 1960 Vedova designed lighting and costumes for Luigi Nono’s opera Intolleranza ’60. He created his first “Plurimi” (Many), freestanding, hinged sculpture-paintings made of wooden panels and metal frameworks in the following year. His Absurdes Berliner Tagebuch ’64 (Absurd Berlin Diary '64) was first shown at Documenta, Kassel (1964). Vedova received many prizes, including the Guggenheim International Award (1956).