Revolutionary theorist and art critic who opened the kitsch movement – yet not many know that thanks to him some of the great names of contemporary art became world famous.
A few days ago, Gillo Dorfles – a name that defined twentieth century art – passed away. An «active» critic, he personally knew some of the greatest Italian artists as well as those from outside the country. In the 1920s, he sat down and chatted with Italo Svevo and Umberto Saba. Born in 1907, Dorfles contributed, with his articles and studies, to launching some of history’s greatest innovators. Here are some: Lucio Fontana He is perhaps the best-known artist on the Dorfles list.
He began as a sculptor, reaching fame for his “cuts” on canvas. This action overcame the boundaries between sculpture and painting. This was rather easy to replicate, according to his detractors. However, he was the first to come up with this idea. Regarding Fontana, Dorfles wrote: “He felt the urgent need to state the inadequacy of the “easel painting”, the distinction between paintings and statues, and […] the importance of creating an art that was capable of transcending the narrow limits of the surface of the canvas, in order to extend into a larger dimension, in such a way as to become a “creator of feelings [atmospheres]”.
Bruno Munari A contemporary of Dorfles, who died in 1998, Bruno Munari was the greatest Italian designer. Critics have long wondered if design and graphic art should be considered pure art. Dorfles’ answer was: «It is partially art, a sort of project design with an artistic quotient, along with a marketing quotient. The design object has above all a function and this cannot be ignored». There was also an active collaboration between the two men: in 1948, together with Gianni Monnet and Atanasio Soldati, they founded MAC – the Concrete Art Movement [Movimento Arte Concreta]. Marina Abramovic She is undoubtedly the best-known – even to the general public – body artist. Dorfles thought he deserved some credit for her success, so much so that only a few years ago he called her “pretty and lively student.” The critic met her in the ’70s, during the time of her first performances in Italy. It was the period in which Abramovic “made the body available to the spectators, surrounded by blunt instruments and dangerous weapons, including a loaded pistol. Dorfles wrote: «She is unique in her total dedication to her art […] The true carrier of [our] being human is undoubtedly our body, and when this vector becomes an artistic work, it manages to obtain those theatrical situations, and at the same time, aesthetic aspects, which no other mediums can obtain».
Abstract Art Three names: Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich. Clearly, they were not “discovered” by Dorfles, but thanks to his writing abstract art of the twentieth century (and with it some of its tendencies, such as Suprematism) also gained space in Italy. An interesting fact: the young works of Dorfles (who was artistically «born» as a painter) were characterized by a markedly abstract taste, quite close to the trio mentioned. Regarding this style, Dorfles said, «The act of drawing and painting was for me, since childhood, something almost compulsive, and forced me to fill the pages of my school books, the hard wood tables of middle school, and the sand of the summer beaches».