Mimmo Paladino's Biography

Domenico Paladino, also known as Mimmo was born in Paduli, near Benevento, on 18 December 1948. Italian artist, painter, sculptor and engraver, one of the main exponents of the Italian Transavantgarde, an artistic movement theorized and promoted by Achille Bonito Oliva in 1980 who identifies a return to painting, after the various conceptual currents developed in the seventies. His works are permanently placed in some of the main international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

His paternal uncle, Salvatore, is a painter and initiates him to artistic interests, which will converge in his attendance at the Liceo Artistico in Benevento (1964-68) and the Lucio Amelio Gallery in Naples where he meets the painter Antonio Del Donno. In 1964 they visited the Venice Biennale together for the first time, being fascinated by American pop artists. 1968 coincides with his first exhibition at the Carolina Gallery in Portici (Naples). On this occasion he is presented by the young Achille Bonito Oliva, who will critically support him throughout his artistic career, including him in the group of artists of the Transavantgarde and the following year he will present him again in the Caserta solo show at the Studio Object of Enzo Cannaviello . Following the artistic indications of the period, predominated by a mainly conceptual direction, Paladino turns his attention to photography, an attitude that is reflected in the solo show at the New Instruments Gallery in Brescia, where he exhibits only photographic works.

With the move to Milan in the late seventies, Paladino lived the artistic fervor of the Milanese city, meditating on new horizons that his work could take. In 1977 the first signs of the artistic change of the following years are felt. In fact, it is this year that the painting “Silent, I retire to paint a picture” was created, which critics today consider the painting symbolizing the artists’ return to painting after the long season of conceptual proposals of the previous decades.

Fascinated by drawing, the artist manages to give ample space to this interest by creating a large mural in pastels, also in 1977, for the Galleria Lucio Amelio in Naples, a space that will prove to be fundamental in the contemporary Italian artistic context. The technique of realizations on the wall is often used in recent years as “Brazil is known is a planet painted on the wall by Franco Toselli“. The geometric signs, masks and branches, on a monochrome background, constant elements of his work, begin to emerge, and you can feel the rediscovery of pictorial figuration.

In 1978 he made his first trip to New York, a city that in the years to come will be the protagonist of various exhibition occasions. Since 1979 he has continued his association with Bonito Oliva and with the artists of the Transavanguardia with whom he participates in various group exhibitions and “Aperto ’80”, within the Venice Biennale, where the Transavanguardia is officially presented. Paladino exhibits the works The gardens of the forking paths, Flashing light and a door. The traveling solo exhibition that touches the cities of Basel, Essen, Amsterdam, marks the beginning of an international success that materializes in the solo exhibition at the Badischer Kunstverein in Karlsruhe in 1980, presented by Bonito Oliva, Faust and Franzke, where the artist exhibits large canvases, rich in allegorical figures, where his poetic iconography takes shape: oil painting is invaded by inexpressive masks, animals, skulls, rich in primitive ritual evocations.

The passion for drawing (which over the years led him to collect papers by different artists, from Balla to Picasso, from Licini to Severini) resulted from 1980 in another great passion: engraving, measuring himself with the various forms of etching , aquatint, woodcut and linocut. The meeting in 1984 with Giorgio Upiglio will allow him to obtain extraordinary results also in this artistic field, also extended by the collaboration with Alberto Serighelli, with whom he will produce large format sheets.

In 1980 he created his first book-object entitled EN DE RE with the Mazzoli Gallery in Modena, also the latter point of reference in his exhibition career. Also in this year, the participations in the exhibitions “Italian: new image”, curated by Bonito Oliva, at the Loggetta Lombardesca in Ravenna, and “Egonavigatio“, at the Mannheimer Kunstverein in Mannheim should be noted. In 1980 he was selected by the Bolaffi National Art Catalog (no.15) together with Giulio Paolini, Valerio Adami, Lucio Bulgarelli, Sergio Cassano and Gianfranco Goberti.

The early eighties were very prolific years from the exhibition point of view between personal and collective and international awards. He participates in an important exhibition “A New Spirit in Painting” at the Royal Academy in London, an exhibition that reflects, at an international level, on the extent of the new pictorial languages. He participates, together with other artists, in the project, coordinated by Alessandro Mendini and Studio Alchimia, entitled “Il mobile infinito“, for the Politecnico di Milano.

He also travelled to the United States and South America, to Brazil to be exact, where he had the opportunity to study and learn about the local culture, ethnic groups and civilizations steeped in primitive animism that will lead him to reflections and to unique emotions that will inevitably convey in the symbols, objects, and colours of the works of those years. Paladino, in fact, states that “art is not a surface thing, it is not a sociological thing, it is not a poetic storm. Art is a slow process around the language of signs“.

These are the years of the construction, together with the architect Roberto Serino, of the residential complex of Paduli, where he realizes his home and his studies, a project of great environmental impact, with signs of his art scattered throughout the vast hilly area to act as a glue to the various architectural scenes. Paladino’s work sees the constant insertion of an intense and privileged dialogue between monochromatic painting and pseudo-figurative sculpture, which sees its apex in large-scale installations, where objects are placed on the canvases that will lead to creations in three dimensions.

Since 1985 the profound dialogue between painting and sculpture has been constant and close: figurative elements are added to the essential, primary colours. There are numerous exhibition moments to which he is invited and which see him as a protagonist since the mid-1980s. “Song for Vincent Van Gogh“, a poem by Ceronetti illustrated by Paladino (Milan, Edizioni Giorgio Upiglio edizioni) is published.

In 1987 he created a project for the church of Gibellina, together with the architect Roberto Serino, in the context of an overall reconstruction of the city coordinated by Arnaldo Pomodoro, after the devastating earthquake of 1968. For Paladino, architecture “can be considered a sighted painting , because it has the ability to synthesize the spatial characteristics of places, the needs of those who will live there, the light conditions and many other things: essentially, it has the ability to see beyond what the simple drawing or project could make us imagine” . The partnership with the architect Serino also continues on the occasion of the invitation that the Municipality of Benevento addresses to Paladino for the realization of a sculptural work for the city, a project on which the two will work together for several years and which will be inaugurated only in 1992.

In 1988 Paladino was invited to the XLIII Venice Biennale, where he exhibited the large installation, the seven-meter bronze door (already presented in the Basel exhibition entitled “Sculptures in the park“) and the first stone Witnesses. He participates in the exhibition “The self-portrait non-portrait“, for Arte Fiera ’88, then at the Pinacoteca di Ravenna with The tree of life, a work that will become part of the permanent collections of the Art Museum of the city of Ravenna.

In 1989 he participated in the series of small personal exhibitions, organized by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, where he presented various works including Kings killed when the force fell, belonging to the Amelio Collection, now at the Royal Palace of Caserta, and Amici notturni, belonging, today, in the collection of the Kunstmuseum in Bern. He creates thirteen illustrations accompanying poetic lines by Lévi-Strauss (Bielefeld, Edition Jesse). In 1990 Paladino exhibited the EN DO RE cycle, Untitled works, a constant that will characterize many works of these years. The artist states, in fact: “I have never given titles that suggest a particular meaning, which could force us to read the work in strictly symbolic and literary terms. The title of a work always represents for me the unsettling side for the ‘interpretation of the work“.

In 1994 his first anthological exhibition of the graphic work, with the publication of the complete catalog of his work, was set up at the Palacio Revillagigedo in Gijon (Spain). He is the first Italian contemporary artist to hold an exhibition in China, at the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Beijing (1994). In the 90s he began to create important installations and interventions on urban spaces such as the permanent installation Hortus Conclusus in the cloister of San Domenico in Benevento (1992), in collaboration with the architects Roberto Serino and Pasquale Palmieri, or as the Montagna di Sale in Piazza Plebiscite in Naples.

After an installation by Dormienti conceived in 1998 for the Fonte delle Fate in Poggibonsi, in 1999 he presents the installation I Dormienti in the basement of the Roundhouse in London. The work uses music written specifically for the occasion by Brian Eno. The same year the Royal Academy of London awarded him the title of Honorary Member.

In 1999 a major exhibition at the South London Gallery included Testimoni, a new complete group of 20 white stone sculptures from Vicenza, and Zenith, a series of mixed media works on aluminum. In recent years Paladino has created the sets for Veglia (1992) in Benevento, directed by Mario Martone, Schiller’s La Sposa di Messina (1994) in Gibellina, directed by Elio De Capitani and Edipo Re (2000) at the Theater Argentina in Rome, again with the direction of Mario Martone.

In 2000, with the poet and painter Gian Ruggero Manzoni, he created the art book Il digiuno imposto. In 2001 the general catalogue of his graphic work was published (Opera Grafica 1974-2001). Illustrates the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, published in two volumes. The same year he created an installation for the Salvator Rosa metro station in Naples. In 2002 the Luigi Pecci Contemporary Art Centre in Prato dedicates to him the most complete retrospective exhibition organized by an Italian museum. In May he realizes a site-specific work at the VOLUME! Foundation in Rome. In 2003 he represents together with Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, and Nicola De Maria Transavanguardia 1979-1985 at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Castle of Rivoli, curated by Ida Gianelli.

A traveling exhibition on Pinocchio is exhibited in the modern art museums of eight Japanese cities and in the eighteenth-century Scola dei Battioro in Venice and at the Civic Museum of Udine, in the museum of Palazzo Pio in Carpi and in Rotterdam (2004-2006). In 2004 he created the doors for the Church of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo designed by Renzo Piano. The same year he made the scenography of Oedipus a Colono and won the UBU prize for the best theatrical scenography. He also produces the artist’s book “Libro Libero Litografico” with twenty lithographs.

In 2005 he exhibited at the Rupertinum Museum in Salzburg and the Loggetta Lombardesca in Ravenna dedicates a large exhibition to his theatrical works entitled “Paladino in Scena”, curated by Claudio Spadoni. In June of the same year, on the occasion of the Biennale, he presented an exhibition of large sculptures at the Ca ‘Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice. At the end of 2005 he set up the great exhibition dedicated to Cervantes’ Don Quixote with paintings, sculptures, drawings and a film in the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples. It is a project that continues in 2006 with the illustration of a new edition of Don Quixote and the creation of an artist’s book, with poems by Giuseppe Conte, also inspired by the mythical “errant knight” (Editalia). The film, at the invitation of the director Marco Müller, was presented with great success at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. The same year he created the doors for the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Lecce (project by Franco Purini).

In 2007 he created two sets for the show OEdipus Rex and Cavalleria Rusticana for the Teatro Regio in Turin.

In 2008 it was the realization of an exhibition at the Ara Pacis in Rome with music by Brian Eno and at the Villa Pisani, Stra and an exhibition inside the Church of Donnaregina, Naples with the intervention of the architect Massimiliano Fuksas and the installation of a terracotta and iron door on the island of Lampedusa. On June 28, 2008, as part of the “Porta di Lampedusa – Gateway to Europe” initiative, a monument created by the artist dedicated to the memory of migrants who died at sea was inaugurated in Lampedusa.

Also in 2008 he created a large tarpaulin (80 meters high) for the restoration of the bell tower of the Cathedral of Modena: the Ghirlandina will remain covered for almost four years by what the Modenese renamed the “Torrone di Paladino” with a play on words. to indicate the large tower transformed into a work similar to a large Christmas nougat. At the end of the restorations, the tarpaulin was cut into pieces and given to citizens as a souvenir.

In 2009 a group of his sculptures was exhibited, “en plein air“, in Orta San Giulio, on Lake Orta; among the works a horse floating in front of the shore of Villa Bossi, the municipal seat. One of the sculptures “Fallen right” is placed on the island of San Giulio with the help of a helicopter. In the same year, the Catalog raisonné of the sculptural work (1980-2008) was published by Enzo di Martino.

In 2010 Mimmo Paladino signed the scenography of “work in progress”, a tour that saw the couple Lucio Dalla and Francesco De Gregori reunite after 30 years. On 10 April of the same year, a large blue horse of over four meters was installed at the Amphitheater of the Vittoriale degli Italiani in Gardone Riviera (BS), the house-museum of Gabriele D’Annunzio. At the end of January 2011, he created the new permanent room of the National Archaeological Museum of Villa Frigerj in Chieti dedicated to the Warrior of Capestrano and inaugurated the sculpture exhibition “Mimmo Paladino and the new Warrior – Sculpture as cosmogony” at Palazzo De Mayo in Chieti.

In April the municipality of Milan dedicates a large retrospective exhibition to the Campania artist at Palazzo Reale entitled “Paladino Palazzo Reale” curated by Flavio Arensi. The initiative also includes the installation of the “Mountain of Salt” located in Piazza Duomo, in front of the Palazzo and next to the Arengario. In the catalog the philosopher Arthur C. Danto writes: “[..] I must proclaim the eminence of Mimmo Paladino in the ranks of contemporary art, a quality particularly true for outdoor installations. There is nothing that holds up the comparison with the imposing “Mountain of salt” that the artist erected in Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples, dotted with archaic horses; the art world of the last quarter of a century has nothing comparable. There is something magically alchemical in the vision of these archaic horses struggling on a pyramid of salt“.

In 2012 his horses are placed on the Fòcara di Novoli (Lecce), a real monument of agricultural engineering and devotion, erected and burned in honour of Sant’Antonio Abate and which reaches 25 meters in height and 20 in diameter at the base. On 25 August 2012 the lights he designed are the backdrop to the stage of La Notte della Taranta.

In 2013 he was commissioned a monumental installation for Piazza Santa Croce in Florence (80×50 meters). Throughout the summer, at the same time as the Ravello Festival, he sets up a monographic of sculptures, curated by Flavio Arensi, within the evocative spaces of Villa Rufolo and arranges the twenty stone “Witnesses” on the square of Oscar Niemeyer’s auditorium. For the occasion he made a short film entitled Labyrinthus written together with Filippo Arriva for the fourth centenary of the death of Gesualdo da Venosa, with Alessandro Haber in the role of the Prince and the music of Franco Mussida and created the book together with the poet and painter Gian Ruggero Manzoni art All the warmth in the world.

In 2015 his participation in the Venice Biennale, Italian Pavilion, with a space dedicated to him. In January 2016, Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, which permanently houses the sculpture “Tana“, dedicates a large retrospective to it curated by Joe Antenucci Becherer. Since April 2017, some of his impressive works have been exhibited in Brescia, mainly in Piazza Vittoria and between the Museum of Santa Giulia, the Archaeological Park, the Underground and the Railway Station.