Giuseppe Capogrossi

Paintings by Giuseppe Capogrossi

Born in 1900 in Rome, Giuseppe Capogrossi, a new lawyer in his early twenties, devoted himself entirely to painting, joining painter Felice Carena’s atelier in Rome. He traveled frequently to Paris between 1927 and 1931, eventually joining with painters Corrado Cagli and Emanuele Cavalli, both of whom worked in a figurative style with pale and ethereal tones. These three were among the loose association of painters known as the Scuola Romana, which later published the “Manifesto of Plastic Primordialism” in 1933, a discussion on the presence of the archaic in the modern world.

In the mid-1930s, Giuseppe Capogrossi’s palette developed from pale into much darker tones. His figurative tonal paintings gradually, between 1945 and 1948, changed into an increasingly geometric abstract style. A decisive shift in his art took place in 1949 when Capogrossi developed a collection of irregular comb or fork shaped signs. Having no symbolic or allegorical meanings, these elements could be assembled and connected in numerous variations, determining the construction of the painting’s surface. 

Immediate in their appeal but yet hard to decode, the paintings had a quality shared with the Art Informel movement of abstract expressionism. Capogrossi’s abstract comb paintings, known as “Superficies”, or Surfaces, were first exhibited in 1950 at the Galleria del Secolo in Rome. These “Superficies” soon became the style hallmark of Capogrossi’s work, dominating until the end of his career. 

In 1951, Capogrossi joined abstract artists Mario Ballocco, Alberto Burri and Ettore Colla in showing work at gallery Aurora 41 in Rome, an occasion that marked the debut of the 1950-1951 group ‘Origine’. Primarily concerned with the promotion of abstract art, the group reacted against mainstream realist practices and advocated a simplified language meant to return art to its origins. 

Capogrossi joined in 1952 the ‘Movimento Spaziale’, initiated by sculptor and theorist Lucio Fontana in Milan. The Spatial Movement, which lasted from 1947 to 1960, embraced the many changes affecting the country in the postwar era, especially scientific progress. The group advocated for a new spatial art that acknowledged recent inventions such as television and neon lighting.

Capogrossi took part in group exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in 1953; the Venice Biennale in both 1954 and 1962; and the 1964 exhibition at Tate Gallery, London, as well as many solo exhibitions world wide. Capogrossi died in Rome on October 9, 1972. Two years later, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in  Rome organized his first major posthumous retrospective.

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