Enrico Baj

Manifesto Nucleare BUM

Baj Bum Manifesto Collection Roberta Cerini Bajfrei 1500
  • Enrico Baj
  • Manifesto Nucleare BUM
  • 1951
  • Varnish and acrylic on canvas
  • 104 × 94 × 3.6 cm
  • Private Collection

Enrico Baj’s Manifesto BUM (1952) was painted for an exhibition of “Nuclear Art” at Amici della Francia Gallery in Milan. The painting features a black mushroom cloud rising against a dirty yellow background—recalling the colors of the radiation signs that were first employed during the postwar decade—overlaid with various formulas and slogans including: “The heads of men are charged with explosives / every atom is exploding”; “thought = force / forces are electrical charges”; “forms disintegrate. The new forms of man are those of the atomic universe”; and “everything = electric charge.” In keeping with the ideals of so-called “Nuclear Art,” the Manifesto BUM self-consciously departed from the forward-looking, positive agenda that characterized much abstract art of the 1950s and instead attempted to depict what Baj himself had labeled the “tragic conception of man,” the precarious psychological conditions that accompanied the nuclear age. As the slogans inscribed throughout the work demonstrate, the physical and psychological realities of the nuclear age were in fact intertwined. The hitherto secretive world of atomic physics and nuclear weaponry – and their positive and negative consequences – would punctuate social and political debates for years to come. The transcendental possibilities of space travel and nuclear power would be counteracted by a world in which nuclear destruction and radioactive contamination were ever-present.

Damian Lentini

Biography of Enrico Baj

  • Born 1924 in Milan, Italy
  • Died 2003 in Vergiate, Italy
Enrico Baj was a central figure of the Italian neo-avant-garde. He was associated with Dada, Surrealism, art informel, CoBrA, and Arte Nucleare—a movement he co-founded with Sergio Dangelo (b. 1932). Baj was a critic of Italian fascism, fleeing to Geneva in 1944 to avoid conscription in the Italian army under Mussolini. After World War II, Baj returned to Milan, studying at both the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where he had begun his studies in 1938) and the law department at the Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan). At Brera, Baj was exposed to Abstract Expressionism. By 1955, Baj had begun to create collages, using ribbons, patterned fabrics and wallpapers, army decorations and furniture scraps to create kitsch satire. His best-known found-object series was his sharply critical “Generals.” In 1960 Baj’s work had its New York debut in the exhibition Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters’ Domain at D’Arcy Galleries, curated by Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and André Breton (1896–1966). Baj again collaborated with Duchamp on Homage to Marcel Duchamp, a reimagining of the Mona Lisa with the artist’s face, in 1965. In 1961, Baj was included in The Art of Assemblage at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1964, he was featured in the Venice Biennale