Artissima 2022

03.11.2022 - 06.11.2022


ARTISSIMA 2022 Back to the Future

Gramma Epsilon Gallery is excited to present a monographic project which celebrates Mirella Bentivoglio, as part of the Back to the Future section at Artissima. Currently the protagonist of two retrospectives in Italy, Bentivoglio’s work is the focus of Gramma Epsilon’s participation in Artissima. The representation of female artists is the primary mission of the gallery - also one of Mirella’s missions as a curator herself - with the hope to address discrimination in an international art market and to bring balance between genders.

The monographic project ‘Metamorphosis’, curated by Davide Mariani, seeks to highlight, in the centenary of her birth, the most significant aspects of the poetry of Mirella Bentivoglio, a sensitive and visionary artist who played a pioneering role in verbo-visual research at the turn of the sixties and seventies, through a selection of her most significant artworks created in almost fifty years of activity, which raise issues and reflect on topics that are more relevant than ever today.
The exhibition aims to retrace the essential stages which have marked Bentivoglio’s artistic and curatorial journey, starting from her initial experiments carried out in the field of ‘concrete poetry’, in which meaning is conveyed by the shape of the composition of letters and words - as seen in History of Monument (created with Annalisa Alloatti in 1968, an edition of which is exhibited in the ‘The Milk of Dreams’ exhibition at the 2022 Venice Art Biennial) - and her ‘visual poetry’, often characterized by juxtaposing slogans and visual elements, such as in Black Flower, 1971. This particular work, consisting of a collage arranged in the shape of a flower, made from old newspaper clippings which report the news of the killing of a young African American by a white policeman, is an intentional statement against discrimination and social inequalities (....). Bentivoglio often questioned social customs, but the spread of consumerism was perhaps where she directed her most scathing criticism, to be seen in works such as The Heart of the Obedient Female Consumer, 1975, and in her witty interpretation of the Coca Cola logo, in which she coherently combines awareness and distancing, linked with a thread of ambiguity: “I noticed that by placing the two letter ‘C’s opposite each other to form a heart shape, and they were ready to form the shape (I didn’t have to change anything), the ‘oca’ (female goose) appeared by itself“ explained Bentivoglio in one of her last interviews, in which she identifies the ‘female goose’ (donna-oca) as the main ally of consumerism. Another of the artist’s themes is gender identity, and from the early seventies she began to underline, using subtle linguistic games, the subordination of women within a world, including the art world, made for the use and consumption of men. |
Alongside the experiments she carried out through visual poetry, Bentivoglio produced a series of book-objects and continued to explore this artform in a variety of ways throughout her career. It became apparent to her that a book, even as an object, can express a universal language. Much of Mirella Bentivoglio’s artistic journey involved the conceptual and material action of ‘deconstructing’ in order to re-build or re- reconstruct, so as to transform and change the relationships that lead to form, in a sort of continuous and constant metamorphosis. As seen in her works such as ‘The symbol engraved in the unconscious’, 1992 (....) in which the face of a young woman progressively transforms into an egg with a snake, or in ‘Danza Macabre’, 1995, in which the straps of the electric chair are transformed into the silhouettes of two obscure characters carrying out what the artist defines as a mournful ballet. During her long creative journey, Mirella Bentivoglio effectively ‘broke up’ words, expressions, schemes and concepts, not only to generate new meaning but, especially, to unveil the deep sense of nature and culture, and thereby introduce new points of view and interpretations of our surrounding reality.


Mirella Bentivoglio (Klagenfurt, Austria, 1922 – Rome, 2017) was a poet, artist, and art critic who operated in the logo iconic neo-avant-garde from the 1960s, creating concrete poetry, visual and object poetry, territorial interventions using a linguistic matrix, and phonetic performances. In the production of book-objects, she distinguished herself by becoming a specialist and cultural promoter of them, and played critical roles in the field of verbo-visuals and the intermediate area of multiple codes of expression. As a curator, The Materialization of Language exhibition which she conceived and curated for the Venice Biennial in 1978 is particularly memorable.

Mirella’s works are in the collections of: Macro and GNAM, Rome; Uffizi Gallery, Florence; Mart, Trento and Rovereto; Ca’ Pesaro Museum, Venice; Getty Institute, Los Angeles; Mac, São Paulo; MOMA, New York. A personal environment is dedicated to her creative contribution in the Spazi900 path, at the National Central Library of Rome, which also houses the Bentivoglio Fund, with books and documents from her private collection.

She also had solo shows at: Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (1996), National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington (1999), Pomona College Museum in Claremont, Los Angeles (2003, 2015), Gubbio, Biennial of Sculpture (2016); and, after her death, Conceptual Gallery, Milan, and Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea, La Sapienza, Rome (2019). In 2021 a retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Museo Stazione dell’Arte, Ulassai (Nuoro, 2021).

For the centenary of her birth in 2022, Gramma_Epsilon Gallery together with the Italian Institute of Culture in Athens held a retrospective exhibition in March, while in April, her Ovo di Gubbio was re-installed. October saw both a re-edition of Materialization of Language at the Antonio dalle Nogare Foundation in Bolzano, and the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome inaugurated the retrospective: ‘Quanto Ben ti voglio?’.

Mirella participated in collectives at the Sao Paulo Biennial (1973, 1981, 1994), Pompidou Center in Paris (1978, 1981, 1982), Documenta, Kassel (1982), XI Quadrennial, Rome (1986), Milan Expo (2015), and has been included ten times in the Venice Biennale between the 1969 edition and this year’s edition in 2022.