Giovanni Lista

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Giovanni Lista (2009), Photo Paolo Aldi.

Giovanni Lista is an Italian art historian and art critic born in Italy on February 13, 1943 at Castiglione del Lago (Perugia) and now living in Paris. He is a specialist in the artistic cultural scene of the 1920s, particularly in Futurism.

Biographical data[edit]

His university studies took place in Italy and in France and he settled permanently in Paris in February 1970.

While teaching at the university, he became a researcher at the CNRS[1] (National Centre for Scientific Research) in 1974. After being associated with the research laboratories directed by Denis Bablet and Louis Marin, he was appointed Director of Research in 1992.

He founded the review Ligeia, dossiers sur l'art (Ligeia, Art Dossiers), in 1988. Its name is taken from the myth of the Greek siren cited by Plato.

A member of AICA (International Association of Art Critics) and SGDL (Society of Men of Letters of France), in 1989 was rewarded the Georges Jamati Prize for the best essay on the theatre, arts and social science published in France; in 2002 the Filmcritica Prize for the best essay on cinema and photography published in Italy; in 2002 he also received the Giubbe Rosse Prize for the best literary biography essay published in Italy ; in 2010, he was awarded the Venetian Academy Silver Medal for the lectio magistralis (keynote speech) delivered at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice. In France, in April 2011, the Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterrand awarded him the title of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In Italy, in June 2011, President Giorgio Napolitano awarded him the title of Chevalier of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Contributions to art criticism[edit]

Between 1973 and 1988 he translated the writings of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Luigi Russolo, Umberto Boccioni as well as the syntheses of plays, theoretical texts and manifestos of the Futurists by publishing several collections and anthologies which introduced and divulged the Italian avant-garde in France. At the same time he developed an original approach to the work of Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Francis Picabia, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Jean Metzinger, dubbed "French Cubo-Futurism".

In 1976 he published the first biography of Marinetti, while beginning to analyse the Futurism founder's political ideas. After studying the political evolution of the Futurist movement, he explored and came to terms with the distinction, formulated by the Florentine Futurists, between "Futurism" and "Marinettism". He criticised the different unitarian approaches of Futurist political ideas and in 1980 published the essay "Art and Politics: Left-Wing Futurism in Italy" (in Italian) thus completing his historiographic reconstruction of Futuristic ideology.

In 1979 he iventoried the postal innovations of the Futurists, thus establishing a new historiographic object: "Futuristic Postal Art", proclaiming the invention of Mail Art by the avant-gardists of the 1920s.

That same year he began to do research on Futurist photography and on the problematic relationship that the Futurists' had with the new technological media to which he devoted several publications and a series of exhibits (Paris, Modena, Cologne, Tokyo, New York, London, Florence, 1981–2009), particularly defining the specificity of Futurist aesthetic elaboration in the fields of photo-performance, photo-collage and photomontage, the sandwiching of several negatives.

In 1982 he organised the Futurism: Abstraction and Modernity exhibit in Paris. It explored the Futurist contributions to an abstract art centered on the tangible experience of reality.

In 1982, and then in 1984, he published a two-volume general catalogue of the works of Giacomo Balla, a Futuristic artist of whom he later organised a major retrospective (Milan, 2008).

In 1983, in the book De Chirico and the Avant-Garde, he assembled a rich unpublished epistolary documentation on the relationship between Italian and French artists. He also studied Giorgio de Chirico's role in the evolution of avant-garde artistic culture during World War I. Furthermore, he dedicated other essays to De Chirico, while also publishing a critical edition of the painter's writings on Metaphysical Art.

In 1984 at the Italian Cultural Institute, Hôtel Galliffet, in Paris, he organised The Futuristic Book exhibition, which revealed the extent of Futurist innovations in the areas of books-as-objects, books-as-typography, books-as-theatre, books-as-machines, graphic compositions, words-in-freedom plates, picture poetry.

In 1985 he published Futurism, a synthesis in which he makes it clear that he rejects the "Second Futurism" formula used in Italy to define the period following Boccioni's death. He proposes a historiographic classification by decade of the different studies on the Futuristic movement: beginning with Plastic Dynamism for the first decade, then continuing with "Mechanical Art" for the 1920s and the "Aeroaesthetics" of the 1930s. Next, he expanded on the poetics of Mechanical Art by publishing an essay on Vinicio Paladini, who was its originator.

In 1989, and with the essay The Futuristic Scene, he explored the osmosis between the plastic arts and the theatre in all the phases of Futurist practises relating to the theatre.

In 1994 he devoted a biographical essay to Loie Fuller wherein he analysed multimedia dance as an anticipation of the Futurist aesthetics of this movement. He also directed the film montage "Loie Fuller and Her Imitators" which revealed the breadth and originality of this pioneer of modern dance.

That same year he published an essay on sculptor Medardo Rosso while also assembling his theoretical writings on Impressionist sculpture.

In 1997, in the book The Modern Stage: World Encyclopaedia of the Performing Arts in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century (1945–1995), he investigates the different visual forms of scenic creation within the contemporary culture of imagery going beyond the dramatic text. In addition to traditional categories, such as opera, ballet, dance, circus and puppet shows, he lists the newer expressions of multimedia entertainment, of dance theatre and of artist's theatre.

In 2001 he tackled the study of Futurist cinema and advanced its discovery by organising three major retrospectives (Rovereto, Barcelona, Paris, 2001–2009).

That same year he published the book Futurism: Creation and Avant-garde, in which he considers Futurism as the highest manifestation of an identity Kunstwollen which has fertilised and nourished modern Italian art since the country's national unity was achieved.

In 2003 in the book The Black Sperm (in Italian), he raises major questions on the deep connection between Eros and writing.

In 2005 he published the essay "Libertine and Libertarian", showing, beyond the protean character of Dadaism, the philosophical libertine outlook as an ideological source of Dada.

In 2009 he organised the retrospective exhibit celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Futuristic movement in Milan. He took up his previous historiographic systematisation of Futurism, stressing its activist model, research in progress, and the poetics of an ephemerisation of art.

In 2011 he published the book The Stella d’Italia (star of Italy), an exhaustive essay on the origins and the history of the mythology of Stella Veneris, symbol of the Italian land’s identity since the time of Ancient Rome. Moreover, here he collects an extensive iconographic setting (works of art, monuments, illustrations, posters, decorative objects etc.) about the traditional allegorical representation of Italy: a draped woman with a mural crown surmounted by a star upon her head.

Between 2012 and 2013, he published two essays, one on Enrico Prampolini, the artist who played a major role in the futuristic aero-painting, the other on the "Vitruvian Man" by Leonardo da Vinci and the reinterpretation of this exemplary model of the human figure by avant-garde artists : the futurists, the cubo-futurists, the expressionists, but also the neo-classic artists of the "return to order" in thé Thirties or contemporary artists such Pistoletto, Nam June Pake, Dieter Appelt, Ontani, Arnold Skip.

He also undertook to scrutinize Antoine Bourdelle's Proto-Cubism, Auguste Herbin's abstract art and Alberto Magnelli; the theatrical innovations of Luigi Pirandello, Pierre Albert-Birot, Emile Malespine; and in addition, the dialectical repercussions and reversals of the formal ideas of Futurism as they appear in the authors, artists and movements of the Neo avant-garde of the second half of the 20th century: Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Frank Gehry, Eugène Ionesco, Arte Povera, Poesia Visiva, Process Art, performance and Image-Theatre.

Major works[edit]

Interviews[edit]

  • (French) L'époque n'est plus au théâtre mais à la scène interview, in Libération, May 21, 1997, Paris.
  • (Italian) Era tutto di destra ? No, c'era anche la Futursinistra interview, in Il Giornale dell'Arte, April 2009, Torino.
  • (Italian) Alle origini dello stellone interview, in Il Giornale dell’Arte, February 2011, Torino.


References and notes[edit]

  • (French) This article is a translation of the Wikipedia in French entitled "Giovanni Lista".
  • Archives de la Critique d'Art, Université de Rennes, Châteaugiron, France.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]