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The Wolfsonian at Florida International University presents exhibitions focused on aesthetics in interwar Italy
Antonio Giuseppe Santagata (Italian, 1888-1985), Return. Song. Cartoon for the Fresco in the Casa Madre dei Mutilati di Guerra in Rome], 1932. Charcoal on pasteboard on canvas, 92 x 141 inches (234 x 359 centimeters). Marcello Cambi Collection, Genoa.

MIAMI, FL.- For its Fall-Winter 2013 exhibition season, The Wolfsonian–Florida International University is presenting Rebirth of Rome, a program of interrelated exhibitions that examine the aesthetics of dictatorship in interwar Italy. Each exhibition addresses responses to the challenges of modernity, as seen in the over 200 objects of public works, mural paintings, architecture, design, and decorative arts in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s, drawn from The Wolfsonian’s collection, with loans from the museum’s founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., and from Marcello Cambi and the Wolfsoniana in Genoa. The sum of the exhibitions constitute a portrait of Italy in the period between the World Wars, highlighting the dialogue between politics and aesthetics that largely defined its self-representation during this critical period of its history. These exhibitions are presented on the occasion of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC.

“These three exhibitions draw on The Wolfsonian’s extensive Italian holdings to show how art and design affect our collective understanding of the world,” said Cathy Leff, Director of The Wolfsonian. “The selections made by Silvia Barisione and her curatorial team show how the things we make are never merely things, but also means of persuasion that influence culture in real, if not immediately noticeable, ways.”

Echoes and Origins: Italian Interwar Design
September 27, 2013–May 18, 2014

When the Fascist party seized power in Italy following the First World War, the regime set out to establish a unified political identity—one looking to the future while maintaining reverence for tradition. Echoes and Origins: Italian Interwar Design explores how Italy’s designers, artisans, manufacturers, and corporations helped cultivate a style that embodied the regime’s concept of Italianità (Italianness), glorifying both the Roman Empire and the spirit of modernity. The works on view—furniture, ceramics, glass, graphic and product design, and industrial objects—comprise a portrait of modern Italy, highlighting the dialogue between identity and aesthetics that characterized this critical period of its history.

The Birth of Rome
November 22, 2013–May 18, 2014

The Birth of Rome presents modern architectural and urban planning projects that cultivated the perception of a storied Italian nation rooted in a mythologized past. On display for the first time, artist Ferruccio Ferrazzi’s colossal study for the mosaic The Myth of Rome serves as an anchor for a series of focus studies that document the alliance between art, architecture, and ideology in Italy under Benito Mussolini. Ferrazzi designed the mosaic in 1938 as a government commission for one of the buildings surrounding the recently excavated Mausoleum of Augustus. The display also includes a selection of studies for additional mosaics designed by Ferrazzi as part of the overall The Myth of Rome installation in the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.

This visualizing of national origins through The Myth of Rome is complemented by four focus studies of additional building projects carried out during the Fascist regime: the Foro Mussolini (now the Foro Italico), a sports complex modeled after the Roman forums of the Imperial age; the E U R, a new district in the Italian capital planned for the never-realized 1942 International Exhibition that would celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the regime; Virgilio Marchi’s drawings for a Futurist Rome; and the Italian Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Rendering War: The Murals of A. G. Santagata
November 22, 2013–May 18, 2014

Rendering War focuses on the Italian Novecento artist Antonio Giuseppe Santagata’s large-scale studies for mural paintings created in the 1920s and 1930s for buildings of the Association for Disabled and Invalid War Veterans (Case dei Mutilati). Chief among these are the artist’s studies for frescoes in the assembly hall and courtyard of the Casa Madre dei Mutilati (1928–1936), the national headquarters of the association, on the banks of the Tiber River in Rome. Commemorating and celebrating Italian soldiers in the First World War, Santagata’s imposing renderings offered a counter-narrative to the devastating realities of Italy’s actual experience in the war. These works not only express the heavily politicized aesthetic outlook of the Italian state, which promoted public art that would restore a sense of national pride and unity after the humiliations of the war, but also reflect the fierce debate taking place around the relationship between new architecture and visual culture.

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