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Major retrospective of Italian artist Fausto Melotti opens at Waddington Custot Galleries
Fausto Melotti, Luna la roggia, 1982. ® Archivio Fausto Melotti, Milan; Photo: ® Daniele De Lonti, Milan.

LONDON.- This autumn Waddington Custot Galleries devotes the entire gallery to a major retrospective of Italian artist Fausto Melotti (1901 – 1986). Featuring almost 30 works, the exhibition spans 40 years of artistic production, from Diavolo (c 1945) to Carro delle illusioni (1984).

Renowned for his delicate brass, terracotta and cardboard sculptures, Melotti’s works unite various movements of 20th Century Italian art: the Futurist embrace of modernity, the metaphysical yearnings of the Surrealists and the material curiosity of Arte Povera.

Melotti’s early education in Florence introduced him to the art of the Renaissance which would have a profound influence throughout his life. In the interwar years, Melotti became a leading member of the group of Milanese abstract artists which included his lifelong friend Lucio Fontana. Inspired by his engineering and music studies, Melotti’s abstract sculpture privileged an immaterial, rhythmic, and intellectual effect in its viewers: a mixture of nature, geometry and music delicately expressed in brass or plaster.

The enormous human suffering caused by the Second World War compelled Melotti to introduce figures into his art. Works produced at this time – such as small ceramic stage sets like Teatrino (circa 1950) – were more narrative and theatrical than his earlier output; their fatalistic melancholy would endure in Melotti’s later work. Like the city squares of Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘metaphysical paintings’, Melotti’s little theatres urge the viewer to narrative fragments to life and form a coherent performance. By the late 1960s Melotti's transformation of commonplace materials such as plaster and painted fabric linked him to the Arte Povera generation of artists. Many of his pieces make the ordinary appear unfamiliar: Lungo la roggia (1982) is a delicate sculpture of clothes left to dry outside.

This is the artist’s first major retrospective in London.

Fausto Melotti (b. 1901, Raveneto, Italy; d. 1986, Milan, Italy) was educated in Florence and went on to complete a degree in electronic engineering in Milan. In 1928 he studied sculpture at Brera Academy, Milan, where he met Lucio Fontana. Melotti's first exhibition was held at the Galleria del Milione in Milan in 1935. In 1951 he was awarded the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale. Solo exhibitions were held at the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (1971), the Marlborough Gallery, Zurich (1973), the Palazzo Reale, Milan (1979) and the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome (1983). After his death in 1986 his work was exhibited worldwide, including the Kodama Gallery, Osaka (1990) and Paolo Baldacci Gallery, New York (1994). Most recently the Museum of Contemporary Art at Grand Hornu, Belgium organised a major retrospective (2004). In 2013, the exhibition Klee-Melotti was held at the Museo d’Arte Lugano. Shortly after his death in 1986, Melotti was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.

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