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Marrocco was born in 1939 in Galatina (Lecce), an art city in the Salento area of Italy. Perceiving his inborn artistic bent, his parents apprenticed him at a very early age first to a tin-smith’s workshop and soon afterward to that of a master stone-cutter who, amongst other work, built sepulchral chapels for nobles. Marrocco’s notable skill in handling materials and his extraordinary prowess in drawing, almost necessarily influenced his choice of studies. The young man therefore attended Gioacchino Toma, the State Institute of Art in Galatina, where he created his first sculptures and his first works, showing a strong inclination towards an informal use of materials. Encouragement arrived with commissions like that obtained in 1960, when Ettore e Achille, a large cement sculpture of his, was bought during the opening of a new Vittorio Andretta shop in Lecce, designed by Francesco Saverio Dodaro. This sculpture is currently part of the private collection of the Colacem plant in Galatina. Another impetus came in 1961 when some of his informal multi-material works were accepted by the 9th Quadriennale D’Arte in Rome.
At the same time Marrocco developed his experiences in an engineer’s studio, thereby polishing his planning techniques and geometrical design powers. While still very young, having ended his first period of study, he was offered the post of teaching sculpture at Giuseppe Pellegrino, the State Institute of Art in Lecce. The artist, however, was gradually cultivating convictions of a different nature, which were to cause much personal and family conflict. This continued until a visit to the historic exhibition of the Nouveau Réalisme at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan caused him to take the drastic decision of moving to the Lombard city, which he did towards the end of 1962, having determined to give up teaching and to dedicate all his time to research. Of capital importance to him in making up his mind without delay was a piece of advice by Lucio Fontana who, having observed some of his works with interest, suggested he should try to move in the artistic and cultural life of Milan. Piero Manzoni, whom he met through Giorgio Kaisserlian, put him up on his arrival in Milan. The two shared considerable agreement as to fundamental artistic-programmatic lines, which for Marrocco would always be a source of esteem and admiration in the future. Unfortunately, the premature death of the great Lombard artist put an early end to this friendship. To earn his living, Marrocco was able to exploit his early experience in drawing, and work in a number of architectural and design studios. Attracted by the dynamic potentials offered by a city in the throes of industrial, technological and urban expansion, he first collaborated with the Consorzio Edile Milanese, then in 1964 with the Pro.Ge.Co of the architects Antonio Chessa, Alberto Barzaghi, Giovanni Longo and Panos Kulemos. He then worked from 1964 to 1966 with the Design Department of Innocenti S.p.A., Milan. His first solo exhibition in Milan took place at the Galleria Montenapoleone. At that time, the artist still showed works from the period of his youthful research into materials and informality. Yet he had become fascinated by the new materials being used in the great cities, both for urban design and modern stores, such as stainless steel, aluminium and anticorodal. Therefore, his interests during this period veered towards programmatic-kinetic art, given also that those years saw notable research being carried out in that field in Italy, by the Gruppi T ed N, as well as abroad, involving the artists of the Nuova Tendenza and of the Group de Recherche d’Art Visuelle (GRAV), with Victor Vasarely and Julio le Parc among the most influential protagonists. Marrocco developed an optical-kinetic language along totally personal lines, made possible by his own individual experiences, already outlined. The results, all told, were appreciable, given that in 1967 he was awarded the Silvestro Lega Award of Modigliana (second prize shared with Mario Nigro) created for works in that sector Marrocco exhibited important works of this kind during those years at the Galleria Rizzato-Withwort (1967) and the Galleria del Cenobio (1968) in Milan, his work being absolutely innovative as he juggled the contrasts between poor materials, thin card or intertwined corrugated cardboard, as well as materials of technological-industrial origin, aluminium or polished stainless steel. All this while he was developing the theme of the iteration or illusory multiplication of shapes in space and creating particular types of environment.
A common feature of all the work shown was his precocious and precursor search for minimalist essentiality. A monumental installation of his, highlighting this theme, was created in 1968 for P.E.A. Ethiopia in the hall of the Ailé Selassié Foundation Building of Addis Ababa, commissioned by the Ratti-Baccigalupo Studio. The artist, in fact, continued during those years his collaboration with the studios of architecture and design, with Giobs of Milan, for example, of which he became Art Director in 1967 (a position he held until 1973). There followed his long term collaboration with the Salvati-Tresoldi Studio of Architecture in Milan, resulting in many interesting installations in private homes and studios. His work with the Malara-Drago Studio of Architecture in Milan continued from 1969 to 1975. He later also collaborated with the Scrimieri-Genco Studio of Architecture in Rome, together with which he took part in the National Competition for the Ticino Valley (1971), sharing the second prize, and in that for the new cemetery of Modena (1972).
Marrocco’s experimental turn of mind, however, inclined him towards other goals. In fact, ever the forerunner, 1965 saw the artist involved in certain researches in open spaces and natural environments, resulting in what can only be called “photographic reports” of the countryside around Salento. Some of these show him nude as he proceeds slowly, moving like a huge caterpillar, through a number of cellophane micro greenhouses. In other photos he appears stretched out and absolutely still inside an abandoned “trullo” house (a rare type of building typical of Apulia), night lights lining the walls, thus creating the idea of a prehistoric mortuary chapel. All the original material of this work, which may with reason be classed as his first performance, Marrocco sent to Giancarlo Politi for publication in his magazine. This performance represented a forerunner of trends soon to explode throughout the art world (body-art and land-art). Marrocco lost no time in continuing with the subjects of these innovative researches and, alongside the journeys made with his friend Gianni Drago and using also the photographic material formed over the years, he began as from 1966 to create his first emulsified canvases. These later represented the basis of the Induzioni su spazi redisegnati (1966-1973), often made up of simple landscape photos of Mexico, North Africa, India, as well as various parts of Italy, ranging from the South to the Dolomites. In the latter case, he touched up the landscape by using coloured smoke combustion in the snow (1969), clearly an example of land-art.
In his first solo exhibition in 1966 at the Galleria Montenapoleone, as well as in subsequent exhibitions at the Galleria del Cenobio, the artist, still enthralled by the contrast of opposites, used materials with a view to giving immediacy to his intuitions. By so doing he showed a strong inclination towards the conceptual, a tendency which, with all the other related artistic expressions, was taking the world by storm. One work in particular gives witness to this message from the artist: Stessa Forma, stesso peso in 1966, created by simply presenting two stones totally identical except for their material, one being of natural limestone, the other of an anticorodal fusible alloy.
In 1969 Marrocco took part in setting up the Gruppo Art Terminal, which also included Thereza Bento, Carlo Bonfà, Vincenzo Dazzi, Antonio Dias, Paolo Lomazzi, Renato Maestri, Livio Marzot, Gianni Emilio Simonetti and Tommaso Trini. With this Group he participated in two important artistic events. The first, Area Condizionata, was held in April 1969 at the Galleria De Neubourg (Toselli) in Milan, and proved to be an interesting artistic-behavioural experiment. Marrocco, in fact, was brave enough to present nothing less than an ant-hill in this shared space, i.e. his work called Uomo e formica, providing a sort of early version of the modern Big Brother shows, and causing some discord among the members of the group. The second event, Campo Urbano, was organised in September 1969 in Como by Luciano Caramel. Numerous leading artists of the current conceptual trend participated, including those of Arte Povera and Arte Programmata. The subtitle ran Interventi estetici nella dimensione collettiva urbana, and on this occasion the Gruppo Art Terminal produced the Sostituzione di un cancello inside an orphanage, with undoubtedly charitable objectives.
Marrocco, in the meantime, had been mixing in the artistic-cultural world of the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan. Here, ever since the time of the historical Nouveau Rèalisme exhibition, he had enjoyed a deep friendship with the founder, Guido Le Noci, who came from his same part of the world. The latter introduced him to the eminent French critic Pierre Restany, a meeting that was soon to prove fundamental for Marrocco. Many of the works he created during those years caught the eye of the critics, such as Pierre Restany as mentioned, and Tommaso Trini, just to name two. One of these works was Giardino Ludens, a garden of springs which could be installed both in the closed space of a gallery (as happened at the exhibition Modelli di Fruizione held in February 1969 at the Galleria La Nuova Loggia in Bologna) or, better again, in the open spaces of a park. In a park the work was able to express an absolute artistic integration with the world of nature - an intervention in (and on) the landscape, wavering between a land-art work and a behavioural experience and directly involving the park-goers. These spiral structures in pre-stressed steel were displayed as part of the Eurodomus 2 exhibition, which took place in 1968 in Turin at the Spazio Fieristico fair, and of Eurodomus 3, organised by Pierre Restany and Guido Le Noci in the Parco Sempione of Milan in 1970.
Once more on the tight-rope between land-art and behaviour art was the creation in 1967-68 of the artist’s book Uomo e formica - rather better defined as an object -book - consisting of a container in Plexiglas shaped like a book and filled with moss, earth and two thousand live ants. Marrocco’s reconstruction of this environment/habitat for ants, executed with a para-scientific interest worthy of an ethologist and an entomologist, caught the interest of the critic Renato Barilli, and led to a definitive co-involvement by Pierre Restany and Guido Le Noci, who decided to have Marrocco in the historic solo exhibition at the Milanese Galleria Apollinaire in 1971. Habitat per formiche was shown once more the same year in the Galleria 2000 in Bologna and, in 1972, in the important exhibition I denti del drago. Vita e morte del libro nell’era post-gutemberghiana, curated by Daniela Palazzoli and held in Milan in the Galleria L’uomo e l’arte with the participation of such artists as Agnetti, Beuys, Carrega, Manzoni, Man Ray, Parmiggiani, Rauschemberg, Tinguely and Warhol.
On these occasions the artist presented various types of cinerary urns, Vasi Cinerari, made in 1968, consisting of glass containers full of cotton-wool, pigments, earth from the Ganges River and human ashes, and these too wavered between the behavioural trend and land-art.
From this period also dates the use of the pseudonym “Marocco”, with one “r”, suggested by Guido Le Noci for practical reasons connected with the way people in Lombardy pronounced his name, and a certain number of works from this time are so signed. Later, however, the artist decided to return to his original signature.
Restany again requested Marrocco’s precious contribution for the show X° Anniversario della Nascita del Nouveau Réalisme, held in Milan in 1970. For this, Francois Dufrène, Rico Weber and Armando Marrocco collaborated with Jean Tinguely in preparing Vittoria, which was then to explode in the Duomo Square in Milan among a thousand artistic fumes and fires. Marrocco’s contribution on this occasion was invaluable, thanks to his skill in handling pyrotechnic material, constantly used by him in his performances involving canvases coloured through smoke combustion. Restany called once more on Marrocco in 1972 for the show Inter-Etrennes held in Paris.
During the early 1970s the artist joined the Cooperativa di via Maroncelli, an artistic-cultural centre in Milan interested in social questions, which counted among its members artists of the calibre of Adriano Altamira, Ugo Carrega, Fernando De Filippi, Ugo La Pietra, Gianfranco Pardi and Emilio Tadini, to name a few. However we have already seen that attention to social-environmental problems was already part and parcel of Marrocco’s work. In fact, he had long been engaged in establishing links, connections and parallelisms between organising structures and heterogeneous aggregates, such as the relation between ant and human societies. His way was more to present, rather than to solve, new and sometimes disquieting questions.
In this manner, themes such as over-population, pollution, consumerism, the environment, and conditioning of a socio-cultural and anthropological nature were engaged by the artist according to his own personal methods. These from time to time involved the use of performances (Rogo simbolico contro la civiltà dei consumi, Rimini, 1971; Uomo-ambiente, Milan, Cunardo, 1972; Pollution, Bologna, 1972), emulsified canvases (Operazione Vesuvio, Naples-Milan-Cologne, 1972; Anno Z trilioni di abitanti, 1970-71), and artist’s books (Uomo e formica, 1967-’68; Anno X trilioni di abitanti, 1970-’72).
Besides his innovative Plexiglas object-book with its habitat for ants produced in 1967-’68, from 1970 onwards Marrocco worked at creating numerous artist’s books. For these he used more traditional methods, stamping various icons with typographical ink, and reproducing walking ants and Ghandi’s face, progressively overlapping. These latter works were shown both at the solo exhibition Ascoltate il silenzio, curated by Giorgio Cortenova and inaugurated on March 31, 1973 at the Galleria Trianon in Bologna, and at the solo exhibition Anno Z trilioni di abitanti, curated by Toti Carpentieri and held at the Galleria Stefanoni in Lecco in 1975.
Other artist’s books or portfolios followed during those years, containing either sheets with “papier-mâché, coloured by mouth” or music-score sheets with superimposed notes (as with Sconcerto, 1970), both the result of various performances. The Sconcerto series in particular, conceived as from 1970 with the creation of a large emulsified canvas, was shown on November 18, 1976 in an important solo exhibition in Rome at the Galleria International Arts, with texts by Adriano Altamira and videos which were presented again over the years on various occasions.
Speaking of performances, of particular importance was Uomo ambiente, created in 1972 in Milan and filmed in super 8 by the artist’s friend Antonio Paradiso. During this performance, which lay somewhere between behavioural art and body-art, Marrocco, nude, carried out a series of foetal movements inside a cylindrical Plexiglas container, while outside the rhythmic beats of his heart were amplified. In another performance of the same name, first given in 1972 and later performed at the Forum of Cunardo - during which the artist was photographed in a nature environment, again nude, while he handled hollow stones containing coloured smoke - the same thin line runs again between behavioural- and land-art. It recalls the work carried out in 1969 on the snow in the Dolomites, already mentioned above.
To remain in the field of performances wavering between body-art and land-art, of considerable importance is that called Terra, cielo, mare, uomo, created in 1973 in the splendid scenario of Marine di Ugento. The filming was by Tiziano Ortolani, and the performance was later shown within the framework of the artistic exhibition Fotomedia, organised by Daniela Palazzoli in Milan (at the Rotonda della Besana) and in Helsinki (Amos Andersonin Taidemuseo) in 1975.
With regard to the performances involving large canvases coloured through the combustion of fuses and smoke - a completely original technique of Marrocco’s and one he had been experimenting with since the late 1960s - the artist held numerous examples of these, both in private spaces such as with Azioni, shown at Malo in 1974 in Casa Meneguzzo, and in public ones. The latter was the case in the exhibition called Sacra, seen in various cities between 1973 and 1975, from Milan (Galleria Cenobio-Visualità) to Cunardo (Le Fornaci), Crema (Museo Civico), Ferrara (Palazzo dei Diamanti) and Rome (Studio Cannaviello).
This exhibition is worthy of note if for nothing else than that so many artists of renown took part, including Agnetti, Beuys, Fontana, Richter, Altamira and Ben Vautier. Besides the historical performance entitled Consumazione collettiva di un mito, carried out in this exhibition at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara (1974), in which a 2.40 x 15 m canvas was coloured through combustion, the artist presented, during the various stages of the travelling show, a series of works once more highlighting the sacred theme of the cross: the 300x300 cm Pavimento in cera involving a lay-out of numerous little flames on the ground, and Stella Sirio, an emulsified canvas of 1972.
Performances of an undoubtedly behavioural nature are, on the contrary, those entitled Rivelazione, numbering chronologically from 1 to 4. The first took place in 1975 at the Galleria Seconda Scala in Rome, with super 8 filming by Nuccio Fornari; the second was held in 1976 at the Galleria Il Milione in Milan, filmed by Antonio Paradiso (on this occasion the film of the performance Uomo Ambiente of 1972 was also shown); the third was held in 1978 at the Studio D’Ars in Milan; while the fourth was held in 1979, in Alessandria, at the Galleria Nuova 13.
Documentation of this huge artistic production, and a careful selection of the innumerable photographs of the artist’s performances and travels, went to make up the volume Calendario, an artist’s book on which both Marrocco and the art critic Toti Carpentieri, author of the texts and the prologue, had worked since the end of the 1960s. The introduction was by Pierre Restany. The book was published for the Edizioni Apollinaire of Guido Le Noci in 1975, and the same year was presented by Daniela Palazzoli in Milan, at the Galleria Il Milione. Still in the same year Marrocco participated in the Premio Termoli (Castello Svevo) as well as in the 10th Quadriennale in Rome, held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, with a work called Le nuove generazioni.
Dating from 1976 were the group exhibitions Blow-up, I viaggi di Gulliver nel regno della percezione, curated by Renato Barilli, held in Milan (Galleria Dov’è la tigre) and in Alessandria (Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea), with the participation of Altamira, Anselmo, Gnoli, Ontani, Parmiggiani and Pistoletto; furthermore, Verifica 76, curated by Toti Carpentieri, was shown in Lecce in numerous spaces throughout the city.
In the same year, 1976, Uomo ambiente, which had been engaging Marrocco since 1972, saw the light in three solo exhibitions, in Bologna, at the Galleria 2000, in Salerno, at the Galleria Arcobaleno, with texts by Adriano Altamira, and in Milan, at the Galleria Il Milione during the course of Rivelazione 2. In the first of these Marrocco showed Autoritratto postumo, a transparent object-book, in the mode of his habitat for ants of the 1960s, this time filled with fly larvae, an example of interdisciplinary work with a behavioural background. This work was also seen in two group exhibitions (Cunardo, Milan).
On March 19, 1976 Marrocco signed the manifesto of Arte Genetica, a movement founded in Lecce by Francesco Saverio Dodaro, which gained the adhesion of many protagonists of the world of culture, including Toti Carpentieri, Milena Milani, Guido Le Noci, Pierre Restany, Adriano Altamira, Elio Marchegiani, Antonio Paradiso, Giovanni Valentini, Ilderosa Petrucci Laudisa, Vittorio Pagano, Franco Gelli, Corrado Lorenzo, Sandro Greco, Enzo Miglietta, Carlo Alberto Augieri and many other artists.
The late 1970s found the artist immersed in important commitments and engagements, the most significant being undoubtedly the great solo exhibition of 1977 at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, entitled I cavalieri ardenti - Ricordi dimenticati, with texts by Franco Farina and Marrocco himself. This work could be seen to offer a more direct approach by the artist to mythological metaphor.
During these years the courses of Marrocco’s artistic development ran mainly along five lines.
In the first, Marrocco was involved by Restany in an artistic operation studying the theme of mass-media. This consisted in a series of exhibitions in line with an Italo-French project involving various cultural institutions. From a meeting held in Rimini there was a move to Bari, to the Studio Metos - where the artist in 1977 held a performance called Le verità scontate, with texts by Carmelo Potì - and then to Paris, to the Galleria Lara-Vincy. Here he took part in the exhibition Intervention sur les mass-media, with texts by Pierre Restany. That same year Gianni Drago, Vittorio Gobbi, Empio Malara and Armando Marrocco organised Il Volto Urbano, Restany again contributing to the text. This event dealt with important socio-anthropological themes, and enjoyed the involvement of an increasing number of citizens and students who turned out along the streets of Ferrara wearing identical masks, designed for the occasion by Marrocco.
Secondly, Ugo Carrega, one of the forerunners of the artistic trend of Poesia Visiva and Nuova Scrittura, considered that many of Marrocco’s works possessed affinities with the dictates of the movement championed by him, and he invited him to take part in a busy programme of exhibitions which - beginning with Lettere documento di artisti sulla condizione attuale del fare arte, a kind of first approach with the artists (Marrocco, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, Ugo La Pietra, Carrega himself and Emilio Tadini), held in 1976 by Carrega at the Galleria Mercato del Sale in Milan - gave rise to a whole series of shows: La Nuova scrittura (Mercato del Sale, 1977), Scrittura attiva (Mercato del Sale, 1979; Centro Culturale Rondottanta in Sesto S.Giovanni, 1980; Centro Internazionale di Brera, Milan, 1980; Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea, Suzzara, 1980 e 1982).
In 1979, again at the Mercato del Sale, Marrocco also held a solo exhibition called Segno e Progetto. It is to be noted that besides Carrega other critics had become interested during those years in Nuova Scrittura. This was the case, for example, with Flavio Caroli and Luciano Caramel, who, still in 1979, curated the show Testuale - Le parole e le immagini at the Rotonda della Besana, in which Marrocco participated along with artists of international fame. Another was Toti Carpentieri, who organised the exhibition L’uso della scrittura in 1981 at the Chiostro dell’Accademia delle Belle Arti in Lecce.
The third artistic commitment in those years of a certain weight had Marrocco adhering to the so-called Opera dei Celebranti, an open group with which the artist participated in numerous exhibitions between 1978 and 1980. The Opera dei Celebranti pursued an aesthetic-moral objective based on the multi-discipline activities of the artists who over time became part of the association, and it originated, thanks mostly to Franco Solmi and Marilena Pasquali, from the section L’ambiguità rituale of the exhibition Metafisica del Quotidiano - in which Marrocco also took part - held in Bologna in June 1978 at the Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna. Texts were by the abovementioned critics as well as by Achille Bonito Oliva, Tommaso Trini and Enzo Spera.
The Celebranti travelled to various cities: Piacenza (Chiesa di S.Agostino, 1978), Capurso (Santuario della Madonna del Pozzo, 1978), Francavilla al Mare (within the framework of the 32nd Michetti Award - Galleria Civica, 1978; contributing to the texts were also Enrico Crispolti and M.Venturoli), Modena (Galleria Civica, 1979), Ancona (Palazzo Bosdari, 1979) and Taranto (Castello Aragonese,1979). It was during that period, March 1979, that Marrocco’s artistic activities took a turn in the shape of the presentation by Franco Solmi of the Manifesto dell’Opera dei Celebranti in Paris at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura while, in the same context, Pierre Restany presented the Manifesto del Rio Negro or Naturalismo Integrale.
Having highlighted the guidelines of the Celebranti, Franco Solmi and Marilena Pasquali, together with Gregorio Scalise, organised further exhibitions, in all of which Marrocco participated. These were Miti del Mediterraneo (Sorrento, Chiostro di S.Francesco, 1980), Sotto il segno di Lucrezio-L’estasi materialistica (Cattolica, Biblioteca Comunale, 1981), Terra d’Italia (Ancona, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, 1983) and Feticci Provvisori (Modena, Centro Sala, 1983). Marrocco’s fourth artistic commitment during this period was the foundation of the Gruppo XDM in 1978 together with William Xerra and Federico De Leonardis, which created interesting artistic events and installations between Italy and Germany. Again with the Gruppo XDM, Marrocco held Gestrandet-Arenata-La nave dei folli in September 1979 in the Library Square in Stuttgart, on the occasion of the 10th Internationaler Kunstlerkongress. The Gruppo XDM created an environmental installation entitled La Rotta della Memoria during the Exhibition Dentro/Fuori Luogo, held at Palazzo D’Elia in Casarano in 1980.
Lastly, Marrocco’s fifth important commitment began in 1978, when he was called by the Architects Scrimieri, Genco and Caproni to work on the seven large decorated glass windows and the bronze stalls of the Basilica di S.Rita in Cascia, during the restructuring of the presbytery where Giacomo Manzù was creating the high altar. In 1985, when the work was finished, the Casa Editrice Mazzotta published a book about it entitled Il Presbiterio Nuovo della Basilica di Santa Rita a Cascia, edited by Toti Carpentieri.
Marrocco ended 1979 with a solo exhibition in Stuttgart (Gallery B14), and began 1980 with another solo in Karlsruhe (Gallery Antiform), curated by E. Irish, both entitled Paleografia.
In 1980 another significant solo exhibition, La città immaginaria, was held at the Galleria Il Milione in Milan, with texts by Marrocco himself re-exploring the theme of myth and memory that had already engaged him in Cavalieri Ardenti. La città immaginaria and its offshoots such as La città palafitta were shown by Marrocco in numerous solo exhibitions as from Uomo Memoria, held in Brescia at the Galleria Multimedia in 1981 and presented again in Milan that same year at the Galleria Mercato del Sale, both with texts by Romana Loda. The following year it was shown at Lissone (Galleria Radice). 1982 also saw Marrocco’s solo exhibition Iside e Osiride held at the Galleria Il Milione in Milan and curated by Toti Carpentieri. Further solo exhibitions followed in 1984 entitled Sogno di Ramses II, the first at the Galleria Il Mercato del Sale in Milan, curated by Cesare Chirici, and the second at the Galleria Multimedia in Brescia, curated by Romana Loda.
Dating from the early 1970s, Marrocco had begun to re-use those canvases coloured by the combustion of smoke and fuses in his performances. This was an attempt to re-cycle or recover the material both of these large canvases, often amply fragmented in the process of creation by heat, as well as other pieces of clothes, discarded and then used in the studio for various other scopes, such as drying oils, for example. Pieces of cotton wool, used for spreading colours during technical design procedures, were given the same treatment. This was actually the origin of the idea which led Marrocco to conceive his first works with cotton flocks glued to the frame, using thin silk instead of canvas, on which he would lightly inscribe simple phrases or signs. These works too were part of the Nuova Scrittura trend. From then on the artist embraced more and more the technique of swathing and treating fabrics, of cotton wool impregnated with colour, of glue and resin, of using wooden supports and salvaged boards, even great beams and sticks (Sogno di Ramses II, 1973; I bastoni del comando, 1983). This lead to the idea of multi-material works and to swathings, often wrapped around metal supports, as was done with lances (I guardiani del tempio, 1978) or comets (Andromeda, 1982). This was a technique which greatly added to the charm and evocative power of the environmental installations he created during those years.
Marrocco’s collaboration with Fernando Sulpizi, Professor of Composition at the Conservatorio Musicale Morlacchi in Perugia and an experimenter in his own line, began during the early 1980s. For Sulpizi he created much of the scenery employed during the concerts given by the Gruppo Hyperprism which he directed, even projecting certain alternative musical instruments. Acting in harmony with principles implicit in interdisciplinary events of the Fluxus type, the artist sometimes actively participated in the concerts, entering the scene hammering marble and making “artistic” sounds. This association continued throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and still exists, though less intensely. Worthy of note among numerous titles are: Apocalisse (1980) in which Marrocco re-proposed the idiophonic springs from his Giardino Ludens of the 1960s; Sette pagine con frontespizio (1983) where, among the scores, appears the photocopied face of the artist, taken from Io sono un Menabò, a work presented by Marrocco at the exhibition Menabò, held at the Cenobio in Milan in 1976 and later at the Fornaci in Cunardo; Cantano le palafitte (1984), inspired by La città palafitta; Fosfeni per Narciso (1986), curated by Pierre Restany, shown at a solo exhibition by Marrocco at the Galleria Blu Profondo, transformed for the occasion into a sheet of water, into which percussion instruments were immersed; L’investitura dei cavalieri ardenti (1989), based on his work of the same name.
The original works described above were presented by Marrocco in other important solo exhibitions during the latter half of the 1980s. To mention a few, La via delle stelle, curated by Toti Carpentieri and inaugurated in 1985 at the Galleria Telamone in Lecce, and the 1986 solo exhibition at the Galleria Il Falconiere in Ancona.
In 1986 the artist created the Fontana della Vita, outside the Monastero di S.Rita in Cascia and completed the decorated glass windows, the Crucifix in the Presbytery and the Cappella del Beato Simone Fidati in the Lower Basilica, following the architectural plans of the Scrimieri-Genco-Caproni Studio of Architecture. That same year he was awarded the Premio Salentino d’Oro at Galatina, his native city.
The following year he gave the Nuova Penitenzieria of the same sanctuary the sculptures Il Figliol Prodigo and Il Cristo Risorto, the Mosaico dell’Alleanza and the four marble panels I peccati dell’uomo. For the Cappella dell’Istituto Alberotanza in Bari he made sacred furnishings and two decorated glass windows, while for the Chiesa di S.Marco in Morcone the fourteen decorated glass windows of his Via Crucis.
The second half of the 1980s witnessed various highly significant events in Marrocco’s artistic career. First of all, his participation in an original event organised by Pierre Restany, Les Olimpiades des Arts in Seoul, during the 1988 Olympic Games in Korea. Here Marrocco, who had been chosen by the French critic to represent Italy along with a few other artists of the first rank such as A. Pomodoro, Consagra, Spagnulo and Staccioli, installed a monumental version of the Città Palafitta in bronze and copper in the Olympic Park.
That same year Marrocco founded the Gruppo Assemblaggi along with Ettore Consolazione, Claudio Costa, Giuliano Giuman and Mario Nanni, with which he held various successive exhibitions, in Perugia (Rocca Paolina, 1988), Brescia (Galleria Multimedia, 1988), Milan (Mercato del Sale, 1989) and Bologna (Galleria La Nuova Loggia, 1989).
In 1988 he was also among the founders of the Centro per l’Arte Signum in Rome, together with the architects Scrimieri, Genco, Caproni and Professor Mario Bergamo, and completed the four glass windows for the Cappella dei Padri Agostiniani in the Sanctuary in Cascia. The following year it was the turn of the bronze Crucifix for the Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra in Lecce.
Marrocco’s work was given particular recognition in 1990 with the Premio Acquisto in the 42nd edition of the Premio Michetti in Francavilla a Mare for his I gioielli di Iside. Again in that year he held the solo exhibitions Forme d’emozione at the Galleria Multimedia in Brescia, curated by Romana Loda, and Dimore, at the Galleria Telamone in Lecce, curated by Toti Carpentieri.
The following year Marrocco collaborated with Pierre Restany in organising an important group exhibition at the Centro Domus in Milan, entitled Oggetti d’uso e d’incanto, and he participated in the show Immagine Puglia in the United States at the Cornerstone Gallery in Beverly Hills, with texts by Carpentieri and Restany. He returned there again in 1992.
Continuing work in the field of sacred art, that year he created for the Chiesa di S.Maria in Cascia the sacred furnishings of the chapel in which the baptismal font of Saint Rita is preserved.
In 1992, after a solo exhibition at the Galleria Opera Prima in Monza, he took part in the II Biennale di Scultura in Martano. Since then his Fontana degli Angeli has remained in the square in front of the City Hall. Later he created two large chandeliers in crystal and bronze for the cathedral of Bari. The enlarging of the Colacem plant in Galatina lead to his creating the monumental Fontana del Sole. Between 1992 and 1993 he completed three glass windows for the Casa S.Chiara dei Padri Agostiniani and between 1993 and 1995 the outer gates of the Santuario di S. Rita in Cascia.
1994 saw the birth of Nautilus, a monumental bronze sculpture, for the Banca del Salento in Lecce.
The historic solo exhibition La via delle stelle, held in the new space of the Galleria Il Milione in Milan in 1994, marked another fundamental moment in the artist’s career. Curated by Toti Carpentieri, the exhibition proved full of exciting initiatives, including a sound performance involving Sulpizi’s Gruppo Hyperprism and Marrocco himself. This was followed by an intervention by Pierre Restany, who had come to Milan for the event.
Commissioned by the Associazione Industriali della Provincia in Lecce, Marrocco the same year created an astylar cross in silver, which was donated to Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his visit to the city.
At Terlizzi, at the Galleria Omphalòs, a solo exhibition Appunti per una lettura antologica, was inaugurated, with Chiara Guidi as curator and texts by Toti Carpentieri. Between 1995 and 1996 he created a bust of Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce while working on her tomb in the Santuario di S. Rita in Cascia. In 1996 he built a marble monument for the beatification of Filippo Smaldone in the cathedral of Lecce, as had strongly been desired by Monsignor Cosmo Francesco Ruppi, Metropolitan Archbishop of Lecce.
Marrocco took part in 1996 in the important retrospective held at Erice, in the ex-Convento di S.Carlo, entitled Verso i settanta - Arte in Italia negli anni ‘70, with Luciano Caramel as curator.
The following year, for the Sala delle Reliquie in the Vatican City, he consigned the shrines of Blessed Teresa Fasce and Blessed Elias Del Socorro Nieves. Together with the architect Scrimieri he worked on the Cappella Feriale of the Basilica di S.Caterina in Galatina, creating the sacred furnishings.
In October 1997, on the occasion of the Triennale d’Arte Sacra Contemporanea shown in the Antico Seminario in Lecce, with Toti Carpentieri curating, an important anthological exhibition of his was organised under the title Testimoniare la fede nell’arte, the texts also being by Luciano Caramel. Further deserved recognition of his great commitment also in the field of sacred art was his invitation to the 4th Biennale d’Arte Sacra in Syracuse.
Apart from the numerous group exhibitions which were held during the second half of the 1990s in Brescia, Milan, Grosseto, Pistoia, Florence and Bari, particularly worthy of mention was the solo Oro e, a kind of anthology of the artist’s jewels held in Gubbio, Spazio Ars Orafa, and curated by Claudio Cerritelli. Again in Gubbio, in the Chiesa di S.Francesco, was inaugurated on May 9, 1998 Un cammino di arte e di fede verso il Duemila, curated by Toti Carpentieri. The following year another anthology was shown in Perugia, in the Chiesa di S.Agata, entitled In Maiestate Sua. Un itinerario d’Arte verso il Padre, again curated by Toti Carpentieri.
Still in 1999 he completed the sacred furnishings for the Chiesa di S.Biagio in Corsano as well as the three bronze portals of the Santuario di S.Maria De Finibus Terrae in Leuca. In 1999 he also finished, following the architectonic designs of the architect Scrimieri, the tomb of Blessed Teresa Fasce in the Santuario di S.Rita in Cascia.
At the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, Marrocco was among the artists invited to the 13th Quadriennale in Rome, entitled Proiezioni 2000. Lo spazio delle arti visive nella civiltà multimediale.
In the Chiesa di S.Francesco in Gubbio the exhibition Opere, documenti, testimonianze was held, with texts by Toti Carpentieri and Pierre Restany. The year 2000 witnessed the creation of the Bronze Portals for the cathedral of Lecce dedicated to Christ Light of the World; this work had also been strongly desired by the Archbishop of Lecce, Monsignor Cosmo Francesco Ruppi. Following this came a participation in the II Triennale di Arte Sacra Contemporanea, Exempla, with Toti Carpentieri curating, and in the 9th Biennale d’Arte Sacra Contemporanea, at the Museo d’Arte Sacra at S.Gabriele - Isola del Gran Sasso, organised by the Fondazione Stauròs Italiana, where the artist exhibited also in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
In 2001 Marrocco sculptured the presbytery and tabernacle for the Chiesa di S.Antonio al Fulgenzio in Lecce. In 2002 he completed the sacred furnishings for the Chiesa di S.Biagio in Corsano, and created the bronze cover for the ancient baptismal font in the cathedral of Acerenza and the bronze sculpture of the Risen Christ in Spongano. The same year he received the Premio Renoir in Taranto, and was nominated honorary academician of the Pontificia Insigne Accademia di Belle Arti dei Virtuosi al Pantheon.
With regard to sacred art, to be noted is Marrocco’s participation during 2003 in two important artistic events, the solo exhibition at the Biblioteca Umanistica dell’Incoronata in Milan, Luce e Opera, with texts by Domenico Montalto and Carlo Chenis, which the artist dedicated to Pierre Restany, and the itinerant show S.Giuseppe da Copertino - nostro contemporaneo, held in Copertino, Assisi and Osimo. The exhibition at Copertino, curated by Toti Carpentieri and shown in the wonderful halls of the Castle, highlighted once more the great attention Marrocco gave the environment with his installations, as in this one called Invisibilia per visibilia. Here he used in a sacred context one of his large canvases coloured by smoke combustion, indicating that, at least from a technical point of view, there is no clear separation between sacred and secular art, particularly when there is a question of manipulating the material used.
In 2003 a travelling show called Omeoart got under way, and the artist, always interested where there was a desire to establish connections between art and science, adhered with enthusiasm. The exhibition began in Milan, at the Galleria Montenapoleone, then moved to Ravello, Rome, Milan again, and lastly to Piacenza. Within this framework can also be placed the exhibition at the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia in Milan, called L’albero dei pesi o dell’agirnarrando.
Dated 2004 was the sculptural installation Messaggio ad una supernova, created for the Giardino sonoro in Groppoli, curated by Andrea Dami.
At the Museo della Permnente in Milan, Marrocco exhibited during the years 2004-2006 in three group exhibitions entitled Artisti della Permanente, Diciotto per tredici and Ventipiucento.
Messaggi d’Amore was the title of the umpteenth solo exhibition held in 2005 at the Galleria Multimedia in Brescia, curated by Romana Loda, while the following year there was a return of the sacred art exhibitions with the 4th Triennale d’Arte Sacra Contemporanea, in the Seminario Arcivescovile in Lecce, curated by Toti Carpentieri, and the 12th Biennale di Arte Sacra Contemporanea, at the Museo d’Arte Sacra in S.Gabriele - Isola del Gran Sasso. Still in 2006 Marrocco created part of the sacred furnishings for the Chiesa di S.Giovanni Battista in Lecce, planned by the Architect Franco Purini and flanked by Mimmo Paladino, who carried out the remaining work.
In 2007 the Museo Pietro Cavoti in Galatina, on the occasion of the artist’s fifty years of activity, hosted a monothematic solo of his work, made up only of canvases coloured by smoke combustion from the 1970s, curated by Raffaele Gemma. The latter also presented a monograph dedicated to the maestro, called Armando Marrocco - artecontemporanea, published by Silvia Editrice. In 2008, Marrocco again held a solo at Desio entitled Dal segno al sogno: viaggio nell’incantamento, at the Spazio Mauri-Zaverio, and an open-air group exhibition of sculpture at the Mondo-Art Gallery, called Esposizione Permanente in Giardino. Between the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Marrocco took part in Armonie Temporali, an important exhibition organised in memory of Tiziano Ortolani of the Osart-Gallery in Milan, in collaboration with the Studio Bibliografico Giuseppe Solmi in Bologna. The exhibition was intended to highlight the constant and rewarding collaboration existing particularly during the 1970s between this eclectic protagonist of the cultural world, passionately interested in ancient manuscripts and photography, and certain great contemporary artists of the calibre of V. Agnetti, A. Dias, A. Marrocco, A. Paradiso, C. Parmiggiani and W. Xerra.
In May 2009, the artist made an important return to the Il Milione Gallery in Milan, with a solo exhibition entitled Auree Magie, curated by Claudio Cerritelli, with texts by the critic and by Raffaele Gemma. In July of the same year, the city of Lecce dedicated an interesting anthology to the artist. The exhibition, entitled Percorsi, was curated by Toti Carpentieri and Raffaele Gemma, and took place in the evocative Carlo V Castle, six rooms of which were entirely devoted to the artist’s environmental installations. At the same time, a further solo exhibition, All’interno della materia, curated by Toti Carpentieri, was being held at the L’Osanna Gallery in Nardò.
A general concise biography edited by Raffaele Gemma for Arte Due
Submitted by Alessandra Trifogli, Arte Due
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