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 Ezio (Azio) Martinelli  (1913 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey / Italy      Known for: gestural painting, sculpture and graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Ezio Martinelli
from Auction House Records.
Untitled
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in West Hoboken, New Jersey, Ezio Martinelli became a sculptor known for abstract styles with many of his pieces made from aluminum. From 1947 to 1975, he was professor of art at Sarah Lawrence College, and from 1956 to 1962, he had a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

His art training was at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy, and in New York City at the National Academy of Design from 1932 to 1936.

In addition to numerous national museums, his work is at the Hunterian Museum and University Art Collection in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as the United Nations in New York City, the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, and at the Elgin Academy of Fine Arts.  The sculpture at the United Nations General Assembly Building in New York City faces the East River. The dedication was attended by Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Biography from Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Inc.:
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1913, Ezio Martinelli began his formal art training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy at the age of eighteen.  He then continued his studies at the National Academy of Design, New York and the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania until 1940.  Over the course of the next seven years, he exhibited at numerous galleries including ACA Galleries and Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery.  In 1947, he started teaching at Sarah Lawrence College.  There he met and befriended colleagues Theodore Roszak and David Smith.  Martinelli’s artistic development coincided with a larger movement in American Art history, the emergence of Abstract Expressionism.

Martinelli, like his contemporaries Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, is associated with the first generation of “New York School” abstract artists.  This first group of American Abstract Expressionists, sometimes called Action Painters, is generally split between the color-field and the gestural artists, who usurped the Surrealists’ concept of automatic art.  Martinelli is considered a painter in the gestural tradition.

Although the Abstract Expressionists were the first group of American artists to dominate the international art scene, they were a loosely defined group who did not adhere to any particular style or theme.  Rather, they were connected by shared philosophies, which were disseminated through avant-garde publications such as Tiger’s Eye.  This group was influenced by Existentialist philosophy, which emphasized the act of creation over the product of creation.  Through this, like the Surrealists, they believed that the individual subconscious could be expressed through art.  They also were influenced by Jung’s theories on myth, ritual and memory and were inspired by the art of primitive cultures that were being increasingly displayed in American museums during the 1930s and 1940s.

Works by Martinelli, from the late 1940s and early 1950s, show his fully developed Abstract Expressionist style.  Although highly dynamic, Martinelli’s works are carefully thought out responses to the aesthetic and philosophical questions of his time.  They are well balanced and beautifully composed, but more importantly they are highly emotive.  As such, they convey to us some of what was in the artist but also some of what is within us all.

Artist Statement:
“I see the artist who exists at this moment as rather a small object in an enormous universe whose role is one of making a humble contribution to the mainstream of cultural flow.  This means that he respects and adores, and venerates as the Chinese did that which is old and he minimizes his own position and tries to contribute however large or small may be the contribution. For myself I venerate all of that which I am forced to call, for the sake of clarity, the past, my own Western Heritage and the even older and brilliant past of the Far East and near East and their multiple cultures. In this way I feel I pay homage to the Titan’s, both anonymous and known... I feel awed by the phenomena of nature as my eyes perceive it and my wish would be to transpose some of this awe into my work.”

Ezio Martinelli, 1952

Biography from Blake Benton Fine Art, Artists L - O:

Ezio (Azio) Martinelli Chronology (1913-1981)

Known for: Surrealist sculptor, graphics, non ob

1913 
Born November 27th in West Hoboken, NJ, Father, Joseph Martinelli; Mother, Josephine Besso.
1931  
At age 18 Martinelli travels to Italy to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna.
1932 – 1936 

Studies painting with Leon Kroll & Gifford Beal, drawing with Ivan Olinsky, and sculpture with long-time sculpture teacher, Robert Aiken at the National Academy of Design.
1933 
Student at National Academy of Design, NYC.
1934
Student at National Academy of Design, NYC.
Exhibition, Society of Independent Artists - group.
1935
Student at National Academy of Design, NYC.
1936 
Student at National Academy of Design, NYC.
Won the President’s Award at the National Academy of Design.
Awarded the L.C. Tiffany Foundation Fellowship. 
Exhibition, Federal Art Project Gallery, NYC.
1937
Worked at a teacher’s position for the WPA in NYC. 
1938
Began work in Modernist and Surrealist sculpture in wood, stone, and plaster.
1939
Exhibition, ACA Gallery, NYC (group) – this was Martinelli’s first gallery exhibition.  
1940
Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, - annuals.
Studied at the Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA.
Met future wife and fellow artist, Shirley Burns Brennan (became Sheri Martinelli) while studying at Barnes Foundation.
1941
Attends Atelier 17, Stanley William Hayter’s experimental workshop for the graphic arts, NYC.  While there, Martinelli created a number of both Abstract and Surrealist influenced prints.
Worked for the WPA in NJ as easel painter and Unit Supervisor. It was under Martinelli’s direction as Unit Supervisor for the WPA in NJ that a very successful “new operation” under the auspices of the WPA was founded to address the city’s interest in “finding employment for, and taking off the relief rolls, a lot of women who were simply not artists at all.” Martinelli and other Artists “conceived of the idea of having our artists design hooked rugs. The women went about and collected rags from all over Atlantic City and brought them into a certain building that had been set aside. They began to develop these designs into some of the most beautiful hooked rugs you’ve ever seen, very large. They made beautiful hangings for government buildings here and there. So they got jobs, and our artists were designing, and there was a new operation going.”
Exhibition, American Drawing Annual, Albany Institute of Art and History.
Exhibition, 20th International Exhibition of Watercolors, Art Institute of Chicago.
Exhibition, Elgin Academy of Fine Art - prize
Exhibition, San Diego Fine Art Society.
Exhibition, Denver Art Museum.
Married wife Sheri Martinelli
1942
Exhibition, Peggy Guggenheim’s, “Surrealist-orientated” Art of This Century Gallery, Spring Salon for Younger Artists. Note: “By 1942, in fact, New York had become the world center of Surrealist activity. The European Surrealists were at the center of the “artists in exile” group, which also included Jacques Lipchitz and Piet Mondrian, both of whom influenced the character of American sculpture in the forties. Late in 1942 Brenton organized a group exhibition of Surrealist art at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in New York in which Calder was included. The installation was designed by Duchamp. Also during this year, Peggy Guggenheim’s Surrealist-orientated Art of This Century Gallery opened with an environmental interior of curved walls and biomorphic furniture designed by the immigrant Surrealist-architect Frederick Kiesler” (American Sculpture In Process: 1930/1970 Wayne Andersen).
Exhibition, San Francisco Art Association.
1943
Exhibition, Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, Spring Salon for Younger Artists
Solo Exhibition at Philip Ragan Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.
Exhibition, Newark Museum of Art.
Martinelli and family moves to New York City.
Wife Sheri gives birth to a daughter, Shelley.  
1944
Exhibition, Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, Spring Salon for Young Artists. Among others, this show also presented work by William Baziotes, Irene Rice Pereira, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and Richard Pousette-Dart.
Exhibition, Philadelphia Print Club - won the John Gribbel Memorial Award. 
1945 (circa)
Separates from wife, “she kept his surname, and he kept the daughter.”  
1946
First one-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Begins Teaching Graphic Arts at the Philadelphia Museum School, 1946-1949
Begins teaching classes at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia – 1946-1949.
1947
Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of art, Washington, D.C. – biennial.
Appointed to faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y. as teacher of painting.
Continues teaching Graphic Arts at the Philadelphia Museum School, 1946-1949
Continues teaching classes at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia – 1946-1949.
Exhibition, “International Watercolor Show, Brooklyn Museum.”
Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago “Abstract and Surrealist Art in America.”
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Reproduced in Article in Partisan Review. The Partisan Review was heralded as one of the “most exciting and influential journal of culture and ideas in the '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s, that began in 1934 by calling for revolution in society and the creative destruction of tradition in the arts.
Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, - annuals.
1948
Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American art, Annuals.
Continues teaching Graphic Arts at the Philadelphia Museum School, 1946-1949
Continues teaching classes at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia – 1946-1949.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1949
Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum
Contributor to “The Tiger's Eye, a widely read magazine of art and literature, was published in nine quarterly issues from 1947 to 1949 by writer Ruth Stephan and painter John Stephan. It took its name from the poem by William Blake. The Tiger's Eye featured European and American Surrealists, members of the Latin American avant garde, and young American painters soon to become known as Abstract Expressionists. The artists, among them Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Adolph Gottlieb, Stanley William Hayter, Andre Masson, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Anne Ryan, Kay Sage, Kurt Seligmann, Rufino Tamayo, and Mark Tobey, as well as art editor and co-publisher John Stephan himself, range across the cultural forefront of the post-war period.”
Continues teaching Graphic Arts at the Philadelphia Museum School, 1946-1949
Continues teaching classes at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, Philadelphia – 1946-1949.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1950
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1951
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1952
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Exhibition, at the Art Institute of Chicago – “Drawings From Twelve Countries.”
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1953
One-man Exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. 
Creates Surrealist Sculpture Series using lost wax method.
Began work on series of large-scale Surrealist Ink Drawings.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
Begins teaching at Parsons School of Design.
1954
Begins to create Surrealist Influenced welded works in direct metal.
Exhibition, “Dessin Contemporain Aux etats Unis," France
Seattle Art Museum Purchases work.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
Continues teaching at Parsons School of Design.
1955
One-man exhibition of Surrealist Influenced welded works in direct metal and cast works at Willard Gallery, NYC.  Note: this is the first exhibition of his Surrealist Influenced welded sculptural works.
Exhibition, “American Watercolors in France," Paris.
Whitney Museum purchases work.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
Continues teaching at Parsons School of Design.
1956
Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship for Sculpture.  
One-man exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum.
One- man exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota.
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Exhibition, Walker Art Center.
Exhibition, “American Drawings in France”, Paris
Exhibition, American Federation of Arts
Exhibition, “Monumentality in Modern Sculpture” Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Dec. 13, 1956–Jan. 13, 1957.
Work Illustrated in “Art in America” article – “New Talent”
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
Continues teaching at Parsons School of Design.
1957
Exhibited “Irons in the Fire: An Exhibition of Metal Sculpture/Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas. October 17th–Dec. 1st, 1957.”
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Exhibition, “Eight American Artists” - “Contemporaries Abroad” – “Europe Edition” sponsored by State Department, traveling exhibition touring Germany, after opening in Copenhagen; it will go on to London and Paris.” “…shows consist of varied works of four Pacific Northwest painters (Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, Guy Anderson) and four New York sculptors (Rhys Caparn, David Hare, Seymour Lipton, Ezio Martinelli).”  
Exhibition, “Eight American Artists” - “Contemporaries Abroad” – “Asian Edition” sponsored by State Department, traveling exhibition touring Japan, after opening in Seoul; it will go on to Manila and Wellington, N.Z.” “…shows consist of varied works of four Pacific Northwest painters (Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, Guy Anderson) and four New York sculptors (Rhys Caparn, David Hare, Seymour Lipton, Ezio Martinelli).”
Exhibition, “Major Work in Minor Scale, American Federation of Arts.”
Exhibition, American Federation of Arts
Included in Brooklyn Museum publication Golden Years of American Drawing.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1958
Exhibited, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, - annuals.
Exhibition, at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Receives Print Commission from International Graphic Arts Society (IGAS), “21 Etchings and Poems.”
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1959
Exhibition, Carnegie International, Carnegie International Pittsburgh, PA
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City
Exhibition, at the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Exhibition, at Katonah Museum of Art.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1960
Enters national sculpture competition and wins commission for fabrication of a 30’ tall aluminum sculpture to be installed on the General Assembly Building of the United Nations, NYC. The dedication was attended by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Exhibition, “Aspect de la Sculpture Americaine,” Galerie Bernard, Paris France.
Exhibition, "Business Buys American Art: Third Loan Exhibition by the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art," Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, New York. USA.
Exhibition, “20th Century Graphic Arts” United States Information Agency (State Department).
Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago.
Exhibition, American Federation of Arts
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1961
Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American art, Annuals “Sculpture and Drawing.”
Work Illustrated in Art in America article – February issue
Work Illustrated in Art in America article – June issue
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1962
Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship for Sculpture - 2nd time he was awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.
One-man Exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute – “SAIC Artist-in-Residence: Ezio Martinelli Nov. 16th – Dec. 16th.
Work Illustrated in Amerika Magazine sponsored by the United States Information Agency (State Department).
Exhibition, American Federation of Arts.
Exhibition, at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City.
Exhibition, The Architectural League of New York. - National Gold Medal Exhibition of the Building Arts.
Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American art, Annuals “Print Council Exhibition.”
Exhibition, "A Survey of American Sculpture: Late 18th Century to 1962", The Newark Museum, New Jersey.
Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American art, Annuals “American Sculpture”
Membership, New York Sculptors Guild
Receives Print Commission from International Graphic Arts Society (IGAS),
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1963
Awarded Ford Foundation Fellowship for Sculpture.
Profiled in publication Art and Artists in the USA – International Association of Art.
Appointed to the Jury of Selection, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1964
Awarded the much coveted “Prix de Rome” - Artist-in-Residence, American Academy in Rome – One of the highest international honors that can be bestowed upon an American Artist. Likened to the “Nobel Prize in Art.”
Awarded L.C. Tiffany Foundation Fellowship
Awarded American Federation of Arts Fellowship, Artist-in –Residence, Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida - spring.
Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, - annuals.
Exhibition, Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City.
Exhibition, Riverside Museum of Art, NYC – “Westside Artists.”
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1965
Working under “Prix de Rome” grant - Artist-in-Residence, American Academy in Rome.
Exhibition, Gallery of Modern Art, NYC – “Major 19th and 20th Century Drawings.”
Exhibition, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska – “White on White.”
Exhibition, Sculptors Guild, Lever House, NYC
Exhibition, Alternative Attuali #2, Aquila, Italy - Reproduced in publication.
Exhibition, American Federation of Arts.
Exhibition, The Drawing Society National Exhibition 1965, American Federation of Art: 1965. - A joint project of the Atlanta Art Association, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, New York Gallery of Modern Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Smith College Museum of Art. Works by 100 national and regional artists, including Leonard Baskin, Milton Avery, Charles Burchfield, Jim Dine, and Helen Frankenthaler.
Featured in publication “It Is” Autumn.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1966 
Appointed Trustee to Artist-in-Residence Program, American Academy in Rome
One-man exhibition at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery, in New York City. Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American art, Sculpture, Drawings, and Prints  Annuals.
Exhibition, National Institute of Arts and Letters, NYC (prize).
Exhibition, “Made of Iron,” Fine Arts Gallery, University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas.
Exhibition, Sculptors Guild – Lever House, NYC.
Moved to Saugerties, New York.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1967
Exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, - annuals.
Featured in publication, “Modern American Sculpture,” by Ashton Dore - New York & London: Abrams.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1968
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1969
Exhibition, Elaine Benson Gallery, East Hampton, NY
Teaches Sculpture class at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, summer. 
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1970
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
Featured in publication, Six Americans: Wolfe Townsend author.  
1971
Exhibition, “Modern Sculptors” – Their Drawings, Watercolors, Stormking Art Center, Stormking, NY.
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1972
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1973
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1974
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1975
Continues teaching painting at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.
1981
Ezio Martinelli died in upstate New York at the age of 68.
1998
Article, Sheri Martinelli: A Modernist Muse, Gargoyle 41, Summer.
2005
Exhibition, Robert Henry Adams Gallery, Chicago, Il.


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