Fifty years after the protests of 1968—a pivotal year for social reform and revolution around the world—Florence's Palazzo Strozzi is inaugurating Dawn of a Nation: From Guttuso to Fontana and Schifano, an exhibition covering  the second post-war period to 1968 in Italy. The show opens to the public on March 16, 2018.

Through more than 70 works from prominent Italian artists, Dawn of a Nation highlights the development of a still-nebulous sense of nationhood in Italy over a 20-year period of political and artistic change, from the Fascism years through the economic uptick and social unrest of the late 1960s. Renato Guttuso, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz, and Piero Manzoni are among the artists featured.

Curator Luca Massimo Barbero emphasizes that this era of Italian art was inextricably linked to the young country's development and its resulting tensions. This was, Barbero says, a "period in art that sucked its lifeblood from politics, current events and social change." In the exhibition, visitors get a sense of the varied and occasionally conflicting styles seen over the course of just two decades, through works in a range of media.

Renato Guttuso (Bagheria 1911–Rome 1987), La battaglia di Ponte dell’Ammiraglio (The Battle of Ponte dell’Ammiraglio), 1955, oil on canvas, 300 x 500 cm, Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, inv. pr. 892. Courtesy of the Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, Renato Guttuso, by SIAE 2018.

Dawn of a Nation opens with a video installation placed in dialogue with Renato Guttuso's painting The Battle of Ponte dell'Ammiraglio (1951-5), a key example of realism and a sort of snapshot of the conflict-ridden decade in which it was produced. Guttuso was continually up against the styles of the new avant-garde, as seen in the examples of Giulio Turcato's abstracted work Political Rally (1950), the main image used in promotion for the exhibition, and in the defaced Mussolini in Mimmo Rotella's The Last King of Kings (1961). 

Emilio Vedova (Venice 1919–2006), Scontro di situazioni '59-II-1(Clash of situations '59-II-1), 1959, tempera, charcoal and sand on canvas, 275 x 444 cm, Venice, Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova. Photo Jacob Littkemann, Berlin © Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova.

The exhibition continues through the Informal Art period, which bore the influence of existentialist philosophy (as seen in Emilio Vedova's Clash of Situations '59-II-1, 1959). Experimentation with materials—seen in the work of Alberto Burri—is also a theme, as is the influence of Pop Art and the growth of monochrome painting. Rounding out the show is an exploration of the Arte Povera movement and the Italian exponents of Conceptual Art.

Dawn of a Nation
March 16-July 22, 2018
Palazzo Strozzi, piazza Strozzi, Florence
Admission 12 euro (full), 9.50 euro (reduced), 4 euro (schools)

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