Baj, Enrico (Italian, 1924-2003)
Italian master artist, Enrico Baj is one of Italy's best known contemporary painter, printmaker and sculptor he is categorized as Bauhaus Imaginiste. Also, a prolific writer on art, he is credited as being one of the leading promoters of avant-garde art. His own work often combines traits of SURREALISM and POP ART. The Italian artist engaged directly with topical issues - from the threat of nuclear war to the advent of Silvio Berlusconi. His vivid, often nightmarish, images and outspoken writings were a constant challenge to artistic and political orthodoxies.
Born into a prosperous Milanese family, Baj showed a rebellious streak from an early age. As a boy, he fell foul of the local police for failing to stand at attention in front of fascist officials, and, in 1944, he fled to Geneva in order to avoid conscription. After the Second World War, he simultaneously studied at Milan University's law school and the Brera Academy of Art.
Inevitably for an avant-garde artist of his generation, he was inspired by the free, bold techniques of his contemporaries in France and America, frequently blotting or dripping paint rather than using a brush. But despite the comparisons with abstract expressionism, Baj's images, with their mushroom clouds and devastated landscapes, had an obvious political relevance. This is also reflected in the name of the arte nucleare movement he co-founded with Sergio Dangelo in 1951, initiating a period of cooperation with leading artists in both Italy and abroad.
Baj's obsession with the atomic age even led him to apply the term "heavy water" to the emulsions of enamel paint and distilled water that he used in the late 1950s. The evocatively textured, mottled Mountains series also include collage - in this case, incongruous backgrounds made from fabric - a recurrent feature of his work.
Baj became increasingly convinced that mass consumption had produced a culture in which artistic invention was replaced by endless repetition and kitsch. His response was to create his own copies of great modern painters, from Seurat to De Chirico and Picasso. In place of contemporary art's stultifying unoriginality, these free adaptations exemplified his talent for imaginative association and collage. This disgust reached a climax in 1994 with the first election of Italy's current premier, and the production of Berlus-kaiser, a sardonic painting populated, like Apocalypse, by grotesque silhouetted figures.

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