Emilio Vedova was born on August 9, 1919, in Venice. Self-taught as an artist he attended for a short period the evening decoration classes at the Carmini school. Around 1942 he joined the group Corrente, which also included Renato Birolli, Renato Guttuso, Ennio Morlotti, and Umberto Vittorini. Vedova participated in the Resistance movement from 1943. In 1946 he collaborated with Morlotti on the manifesto Oltre Guernica in Milan and was a founding member of the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti in Venice. In this period he began his Geometrie nere series, black and white paintings influenced by Cubist spatiality.
Vedova’s first solo show in the United States was held at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York in 1951. In the same year he was awarded the prize for young painters at the first São Paulo Bienal. In 1952 he participated in the Gruppo degli Otto. Vedova was represented at the first Documenta exhibition in Kassel in 1955 and won a Guggenheim International Award in 1956. He executed his first lithographs in 1958. In 1959 he created large L-shaped canvases, called Scontri di situazioni, which were exhibited in a black environment created by Carlo Scarpa for the exhibition Vitalità nell’arte, which opened at Palazzo Grassi, Venice, and traveled to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Vedova was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the 1960 Venice Biennale, the year in which he created moving light sets and costumes for Luigi Nono’s opera Intolleranza ’60. This led to the first Plurimi in 1961–63: freestanding, hinged, and painted sculpture/paintings made of wood and metal. From 1963 to 1965, Vedova worked in Berlin, at the Deutsche Akademischer Austausch Dienst, and created his best known Plurimi, the Absurdes Berliner Tagebuch ‘64, presented at Documenta III, Kassel. From 1965 to 1969 (and in 1988), he succeeded Oskar Kokoschka as Director of the Internationale Sommerakademie in Salzburg. In 1965 and 1983 he traveled in the United States, where he lectured extensively. For the Italian Pavilion at Expo ’67, Montreal, he created a light-collage using glass plates to project mobile images across a large asymmetric space. He also taught at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice, from 1975 to 1986. Since the late 1970s, Vedova has experimented with a variety of new techniques and formats such as the Plurimi-Binari (mobile works on steel rails), monotypes, double-sided circular panels (Dischi), and large-scale glass engraving. In 1995 he began a new series of multifaceted and manipulable painted objects called Disco-Plurimo. The artist died in Venice on October 25, 2006.