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carmi1At times there is no linear path to describe the work of an artist who successfully integrates various aspects of the visual experience. So we start out by showing above, a watercolor on the cover of a monograph published in 1990 by the Italian publisher Electa, on the occasion of a Carmi Exhibition in Milan, Italy.

Painting, collages, photography, design, visual poetry are all fields that merged in the works of Eugenio Carmi (Genova 1920-?). Let us have a look at his biography first. (shown below)

carmi bioCARMI is one of those genuine personalities involved in an ever greater search for visual and intellectual freedom like Bruno Munari. Carmi always followed along an abstract visual path nicely illustrated in his work shown below.

carmi5I particularly like the numerous “poster like” signage panels he developed for Italsider, a large metallurgical enterprise with factories all over Italy, in their quest for worker quality and safety awareness on the job (shown below). Carmi contributed to the in-house publication with layouts, covers and invited many artist friends and photographers like Paolo Monti, Ugo Mulas, Kurt Blum, John Deakin to contribute to Italsider’s Magazine. The publication of that magazine was considered one of the early attempts in the 1950’s and 60’s to give a genuine artistic input to increasingly industrial objectives. It was full of art reproductions by contemporary artists. Carmi himself created artworks out of metal on the factory floor and invited sculptors like David Smith to experiment, which was at that time an unheard of practice. His efforts in that direction led to multiples and finally to furniture for the Rossi d’Albizzate Company in 1982.

carmi2carmi3The Hands, The Hands, (le mani) not only the indispensable tools of the manual  factory worker but also the tools of the poet, painter, writer, in other words a reminder for all of us.

Interesting is the catalog below published in 1982 in Milan, Italy by Zarathustra Publishers in which Carmi asks a few friends of what they thought of him and his work! And what kind of friends?

carmi6Artists like Alessandro Mendini certainly not an unknown, or Umberto Ecco, a writer whose work has been read all over the planet, or Pierre Restany, the founder of the French Nouveau Realistes movement of the 1960’s.

Ever the instigator of new creative events, he and his wife were the driving impetus behind the establishment in Genova of a coop gallery and cultural enterprise in 1963. From its very inception, participants were the abstract painter Achille Perilli, photographer and film maker Kurt Blum. The first exhibition saw participation with works on display by artists Lucio Fontana, Max Bill, Corrado Cagli, Getulio Alviani, Santomaso and many others. The next creative step was to produce serigraphs by fellow contemporary artists. Max Bill, Richard P.Lohse, A. Pomodoro, Gianni Morandini, Jesus R. Soto and Victor Vasarely made serigraphs for the gallery. These serigraphs usually were produced in groups (portfolio) and in limited numbers between 80 to 200. A number of these works were printed by the best Milanese master printer of all times Giorgio Upiglio.

Tapestries, ties, wall hangings are multiples in their own right! I am not sure if I would ever wear one of these ties (shown below) but they were a sure part of the art and fashion movement of the 1970’s.carmi4Photography played a far larger role than generally assumed by outsiders in his work. Innovative is the use of his photos on canvas coupled with acrylic paint in his portrait series, like the one below of his friend Umberto Ecco, made to look like a king on a playing card.carmi-p3carmi-p2A wonderful portrait of Giorgia Brion above and of his friend Mauro Mancia a famous Italian neuro-physiologist combining the two techniques in a new way, both date from 1982.

carmi-pFurio Colombo, mass communicator, visiting professor and lecturer at Columbia University, Harvard and Yale wrote an essay on his painting in which the following appears: “or the natural passage into a dimension-plane, space or setting which is contiguous to life yet different, made of materials and extraneous sensations and further down in the essay “one part adolescence, one part craft, one part ancient history, one part instant happiness, one part memories, one part calculation, one part shrewdness and prudence mixed well together, one part innocence, one part reserve, and one part impetus. A sharp memory“.

All of the above quoted attributes apply rightly so to Carmi  illustrating several children’s books, 3 were produced in cooperation with his friend of long standing Umberto Ecco (issued in various language editions): Stripsody (1966) La Bomba e il Generale (1966), I Tre Cosmonauti, the last 2 were reprinted by Bompiani Publishers in 1988. Too bad all three are lacking in my own library!

Above we are posting a wonderful YouTube movie, Your hands! Your Head! Your Eyes! Eugenio Carmi, artist in the factory. It is a little over 29 minutes long in Italian with English subtitles, and it is a real treasure! Thank you Eugenio Alberti!

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