Enrico Baj Biography

Enrico Baj




Painter, printmaker, sculptor, and collagist Enrico Baj was born into a wealthy family in Milan, Italy, on October 31, 1924. He had intended to pursue a career in law but his interest in anarchic ideologies made him a target of Mussolini's government, and he fled to Geneva in 1944, avoiding conscription into the fascist Italian army during World War II. Once the war ended he returned to Italy to study art at Brera Academy of Art and once again attempted to pursue law at the Milan University; both avenues of formal education proved unappealing. He took to studying on his own, inspired by the edgier Surrealist and Abstractionist works of French and American artists of the 1950s, but found that his work was more overtly political than many of his contemporaries.

Of the many mediums Baj was connected to, he was especially interested in multi-media imagery such as collage and found-object sculpture. In 1951 he founded the arte nucleare group with fellow Italian artists Gianni Bertini and Sergio Dangelo, creating works in Italy and abroad that directly responded to the dangers of the nuclear age. At this time he was also assoicated with the CoBrA movement, and he collaborated with author and political essayist Umberto Eco.

By the 1960s Baj was constructing images from a variety of unusual mediums, incorporating fabric, rope, plumbing parts, sheets of colorful acrylic, and more into his prints, paintings, and sculpture. His paintings would sometimes take on monumental proportions, engulfing entire walls and rooms. Often times he would borrow compositions from prominent artists such as Renoir, Picasso, Seurat, and others, reworking them in his own style. In 1972 he created one of his most controversial works, "The Funeral of the Anarchist Pinelli" -- a la Carlo Carrà's 1911 painting "The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli" -- a political work paying homage to an anarchist railroad worker who was killed while in police custody in 1969. The work was banned from being exhibited after the police officer accused of killing Pinelli was, himself, murdered.

In 1963 he cofounded the Institute of Pataphysics, in honor of Alfred Jarry, author of the Ubu books, with the photographer Man Ray. The absurdist, mock-scientific "philosophy" often led to their censorship by the government. Enrico Baj continued to work until very near his death in 2003. Among his last works was a series of paintings protesting the election of Silvio Berlusconi, titled Berluskaiser. He also wrote several satirical books, among them Automitobiografia (1983) and Kiss Me, I'm Italian (1997). He died on June 15, 2003 in Vergiate, Italy.