Franco Angeli (Rome 1935 – 1988), Obelisk
Mixed media on canvas cm 120 x 70 signed on the back.
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Since the 1960s, Franco Angeli has used stereotypical ideological images and symbols, drawn from the iconography of finance and international geopolitics. The artist goes beyond the reference to American pop models and extracts from those new signifying images. Ideological emblems, like the typical half-dollar coin icon, as ancestral symbols, act directly on the collective unconscious. The artist simplifies symbols and allegories that belong to history, architecture and art history. His painting becomes extremely sophisticated, yet accessible, because it re-proposes, in an original key, images and signs that everyone, even people outside the art world, recognize.
This is precisely the case of the obelisk, which naturally recalls that of Piazza del Popolo in Rome, a meeting place for artists and intellectuals, especially in the 1960s. It was there that Angeli found himself with Schifano, Tano Festa and other artist friends, so much so that they were later defined as protagonists of the “Scuola di Piazza del Popolo”. The obelisk, reproduced with rigorous and simple lines, makes its way into the composition emerging from a backdrop painted with apparent chaos. But also there are traces of stars and other symbols, because on the other hand painting is the space of imagination and of dreams, of memory and of the interpretation of reality.
The obelisk presented here, datable to the early Eighties, on the contrary, represents the phase within the artist’s career, during which Angeli gives more space to color and geometric rigor, ironically connoting – lightness is only apparent – the profile of the obelisk, placed at the center of the composition with, on the right, the outline of a little airplane, and to the left, the segment of a moon that stands out on a disturbing purple-red sky.
This work also shows how Angeli likes to use symbols – a methodology common to the pop world – loading them with military-political meanings with respect to consumer goods-objects used by American artists or to the “poor” fantasies of Roman colleagues. Several enamels on paper from this period testify to the use, persistently graphicized, of profiles that recall just those motifs, reabsorbed by the white field of the background and by the sometimes compulsive sign, progressively reduced to graphic elements.