Enrico Baj

Enrico Baj was born in Milan in 1924 and became one of Italy’s best-known artists. Baj was also a prolific essayist and polemicist, with his artistic practice navigating the 1950s and 60s, alongside the likes of Fontana, Manzoni and Klein, forging relations with the Cobra group, Duchamp, as well as the exponents of Nouveau Réalisme and Pataphysics. A great believer in both the Surrealist and Dada movements, Baj often experimented with new techniques and stylistic solutions, making collages and mixed-media assemblages using the most diverse materials, including textiles, metals, mirrors, and coloured glass.
1951 proved to be a momentous year for Baj, with his first solo exhibition being held at the Galleria San Fedele. In that same year, he founded Movimento Nucleare with Sergio Dangelo and Gianni Dova, a collection of artists who critiqued the use of nuclear power after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following this, in 1954, with Asger Jorn, he founded the Mouvement International pour une Bauhaus Imaginiste, a direct criticism of rationalist art and forced rationalization.


This theme progressed throughout Baj’s career and in 1957 he drew up the manifesto Contro lo stile (Against Style), which issued a virulent attack on formalism and its seriality. Baj’s collages, gave visual scope to his crusade against stereotypes, with a desecrating essence that often flowed into the grotesque.
In 1960, Baj made his debut in New York as part of the exhibition Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters’ Domain, organised by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton at the D’Arcy Galleries. The following year, his works were included in the landmark exhibition at the MoMA in New York, curated by William Seitz, Art of Assemblage (1961). In France, André Breton invited him to exhibit with the Surrealists, and in 1963 he dedicated an essay to him published in Rosamond and George Bernier’s magazine ‘L’oeil’. Baj was then subsequently dedicated a room, at the 1964 Venice Biennale, with a presentation by Raymond Queneau.
From 1967 he exhibited regularly at Studio Marconi, and in the 1970s he had his first important retrospectives (Palazzo Reale, Milan; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels), with the addition of three major exhibitions taking place in 1971 at Palazzo Grassi, Venice; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Musée de l’Athénée, Geneva.
Baj was also a skilled engraver and worked on the texts of poets and writers, accompanying books with prints and multiples, from Lucretius and Tacitus to Lewis Carrol, André Breton, Edoardo Sanguineti, Roberto Sanesi, Umberto Eco and Alda Merini.
In the 1990s, Baj’s attention was focused on his Maschere tribali cycle, which consisted of using waste materials connected together to create ironic and brightly coloured masks. These pieces were latterly followed by the Feltri (1993-98) and Totem (1997) series.
A tireless writer, he has published numerous books, from Automitografia (Rizzoli, 1983) to those on art history and Che cos’è la Patafisica (Lanfranchi, 1994).
Today his works are found in collections around the world, including MoMA, New York; Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH); the British Museum and Tate Modern in Britthe UKain; the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent. In Italy, his works are found in numerous institutions, including the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, the MUSEION, Bolzano, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo (GAMeC) and Museo del Novecento, Milan.
Enrico Baj died in Vergiate (Varese) in 2003.

Gallery

Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Peinture nucléaire (Dedicato ad André Kuhn), 1952
Oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm - 31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in
Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Portrait, 1955
Mixed media on damask canvas
30 x 24 cm - 11 3/4 x 9 1/2 in
Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Il super general, 1960
Oil, collage, passamenterie, decorations, object on fabric
130 x 97 cm - 51 1/8 x 38 1/4 in
Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Caporale, 1970
Acrylic, collage, decorations, objects on fabric (on board)
89 x 60 x 2.5 cm - - 35 1/8 x 23 5/8 x 1 in
Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Jeanne-Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes, Comtesse de Verrue, 1974
Collage on board
146 x 114 cm - - 57 1/2 x 44 7/8 in
Enrico Baj, 1924 - 2003
Testa montagna
Oil and collage on canvas
50 x 60 x 1.5 cm - - 19 3/4 x 23 5/8 x 5/8 in

Publication

Caporale, 1970
89 x 60 x 2.5 cm

Exhibitions

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