Thomas Monahan

Fine Art

Valerio Adami

Valerio Adami (b. 1935) is a renowned Italian artist known for his Pop-inflected, figurative canvases and drawings. They feature flat planes of color delineated by thick black lines in the style of French Cloisonnism (1884-1894), whose leading practitioners – Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and Paul Gauguin – took their cue from the ancient ceramic technique of pouring color into wire compartments. But while French Cloisonnists typically produced paintings of detailed shading and detail, Adami’s works are hyper-stylized, borrowing, like many Pop artists, the language of advertising and photographic reproduction to produce very flat compositions of color and line.

Born in Bologna, Adami studied painting under Felice Carena before he was admitted into the Accademia di Brera in 1951. Spending some time in Paris in the mid-fifties, he came into contact with Roberto Matta, Wifredo Lam and Oskar Kokoschka, who became prominent influences on his work. He held his first exhibition in 1957 as he began travelling back and forth between Italy and Paris before finally settling down in Arona, Italy at Lago Maggiore. This stationary existence would be short lived, however, as five years later he began spending time in New York and London, where he produced numerous works revolving around urban existence.

During this time his work was still largely expressionistic, but by his 1964 solo exhibition in Kassel he adopted more French Cloisonnist tendencies. He also began tackling more overtly political topics in his work, incorporating references to modern European history, literature, philosophy, and mythology. Taking notice of these shifts, noted literary critic Jacques Derrida devoted a long essay to his work titled “+R: Into the Bargain,” using the artist’s drawings as a framework for "the letter and the proper name in painting," as Derrida wrote, with reference to "narration, technical reproduction, ideology, the phoneme, the biographeme, and politics."

Trips to India, the United States, and Israel followed, and in the 70s and 80s Adami embarked on collaborative film and book projects and continued to make art, which culminated in a major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 1986.

A selection of works