TRANSATLANTIC BRIDGES: CORRADO CAGLI, 1938-1948
October 12, 2023 - January 27, 2024
Friday and Saturday: 11am to 6pm (last entry at 5pm). Guided tours: 11am and 2pm
Members-only hours: Monday-Thursday by appointment
General admission: $15 for guided tours; $10 for open hours
Members & students: free
CIMA’s Fall-Winter 2023-24 exhibition will be dedicated to Italian Jewish artist Corrado Cagli (1910-1976) and focus on the human and intellectual trajectory of the years he spent in the United States, between 1938 and 1948.
During the 1930s, Cagli was active as a painter working on public projects commissioned by the Italian fascist regime, including the 1937 Paris Expo, for which his paintings were part of an official government-sanctioned pavilion. It was only after 1937 that Cagli faced the full force of the regime as the number of critics and fascist party intellectuals attacking his work and persona grew.
As a Jewish and openly gay artist, starting in 1937, Cagli became the target of antisemitic attacks from reactionary critics within the fascist regime. As Italy promulgated its racial laws in 1938, Cagli left the country for the United States, where he became a protagonist of the New York émigré artistic scene. He was very close to the Neo-romantic milieu revolving around the Julian Levy Gallery and the Wadsworth Atheneum; he was active in the environment of anti-Breton surrealists of View magazine; and participated in a foundational moment of gay culture in New York together with other artists working for the Ballet Society and Harper’s Bazaar and exhibiting at Alexander Iolas’s gallery.
As World War II raged, he enrolled in the US Army, training on the West Coast, and traveled back to Europe, where he participated in historical events such as D-Day and the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp. At the end of the war, he played a key role in re-establishing cultural relationships between Italy and the US thanks to his collaboration with Irene Brin and the Roman Galleria L’Obelisco. During the ten years of his American stay, Cagli continued to produce and exhibit drawings—a medium that became a particularly apt instrument to interrogate and critique the magniloquence of the fascist rhetoric that Cagli himself had contributed to delineate.
Besides the themes of war, exile, and discrimination, the works in the exhibition — including drawings, paintings, photos and ephemera —will also address Cagli’s multifaceted engagement with the New York Surrealist and Neo-romantic milieu, as well as his collaboration with George Balanchine and the Ballet Society.
The show is curated by Raffaele Bedarida, PhD. Dr. Bedarida, associate professor of Art History at Cooper Union, is an art historian and curator specializing in transnational modernism and politics. Since he joined The Cooper Union full-time faculty in 2016, he has coordinated the History and Theory of Art program. Bedarida holds a Ph.D. from the Art History Department of the CUNY Graduate Center, New York as well as M.A. and B.A. degrees in Art History from the Università degli Studi di Siena, Italy. His research has focused on cultural diplomacy, migration, and exchange between Italy and the United States. He has also worked on exhibition history, censorship, and propaganda under Fascism and during the Cold War, from Futurism to Arte Povera. Since 2008, when he founded and curated the residency program Harlem Studio Fellowship in New York, Bedarida has actively promoted programs of international exchange for emerging artists. In addition to his academic and curatorial activities, Bedarida has regularly lectured on modern and contemporary art topics at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and MoMA. Bedarida has authored three monographs: Bepi Romagnoni: Il Nuovo Racconto (Milan: Silvana, 2005); Corrado Cagli: la pittura, l’esilio, l’America (Rome: Donzelli, 2018; English edition: CPL Editions, in press); Exhibiting Italian Art in the US. Futurism to Arte Povera (London-New York: Routledge, 2022). He has also edited many volumes, among which: Methodologies of Exchange: Twentieth Century Italian Art at MoMA, 1949, with Davide Colombo and Silvia Bignami, special issue of Italian Modern Art, January 2020; Gianfranco Baruchello: Painters Ain’t Butterflies (Macerata: Quodlibet, 2021); Curating Fascism: Exhibitions and Memory from the Fall of Mussolini to Today, with Sharon Hecker (London-New York: Bloomsbury, 2022). His academic articles and essays have been published extensively in periodicals, such as Oxford Art Journal, International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, Italian Modern Art, and Artforum, and in exhibition catalogues. Bedarida’s upcoming publications is: Author, Corrado Cagli: Exile, Painting, America 1938-1947, monograph (New York: Primo Levi Center Editions, in press).