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
This exhibition, curated by Cooper Union Prof. Raffaele Bedarida, is dedicated to the Jewish Italian artist Corrado Cagli (1910-1976) and will shed light on Cagli’s captivating human and intellectual journey during his transformative years in the United States, from 1938 to 1948.
Transatlantic Bridges will delve into Cagli’s life as he was forced to escape his native country due to the censorship and persecution during the 1930s. A talented painter, Cagli was actively involved in public projects commissioned by the Italian fascist regime. However, after 1937, Cagli’s work attracted fierce criticism from reactionary critics within the fascist establishment.
As a Jewish and openly gay artist, Cagli became the target of virulent attacks, especially after Italy promulgated its racial laws in 1938. In response to these hostile conditions, Cagli chose to leave his homeland and seek refuge in the United States. In America, he became an influential figure within the New York émigré artistic scene. He found camaraderie among the Neo-romantic milieu centered around the Julian Levy Gallery and the Wadsworth Atheneum.
Cagli actively participated in the environment of anti-Breton surrealists of View magazine and became a part of a foundational moment in gay culture in New York, collaborating with other artists working for the Ballet Society and Harper’s Bazaar, and exhibiting at Alexander Iolas’s gallery.
Throughout his ten-year stay in America, Cagli continued to produce and exhibit drawings, a medium that allowed him to interrogate and critique fascist rhetoric.
As World War II raged on, Cagli joined the US Army, receiving training on the West Coast before returning to Europe to participate in historical events, such as D-Day and the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
At the war’s end, he played a crucial role in re-establishing cultural connections between Italy and the United States, collaborating with MoMA, Irene Brin and the Roman Galleria L’Obelisco.
The exhibition, which includes drawings, paintings, photos and ephemera, will not only explore themes of war, exile, and discrimination but will also highlight Cagli’s multifaceted engagement with the New York Surrealist and Neo-romantic milieu. Additionally, it will shed light on his collaboration with George Balanchine and the Ballet Society, showcasing the depth and richness of his artistic legacy.
Transatlantic Bridges showcases an extraordinary artist whose life and work resonate with themes of perseverance, transformation, and artistic expression amidst adversity. The exhibition promises to be a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of an often overlooked chapter in Italian and American art history.
ABOUT THE CURATOR: Raffaele Bedarida is an art historian and curator specializing in transnational modernism and politics. An associate professor or art history at Cooper Union, he holds a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, New York as well as M.A. and B.A. degrees from the Università degli Studi di Siena, Italy. He was the inaugural fellow of CIMA in 2014. Bedarida’s 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. His most recent books are Exhibiting Italian Art in the US from Futurism to Arte Povera: Like a Giant Screen (London: Routledge, 2022) and Curating Fascism: Exhibitions and Memory from the Fall of Mussolini to Today, co-edited with Sharon Hecker (London: Bloomsbury, 2022). The English translation of his monograph on Cagli’s exile (Rome: Donzelli, 2018) was published by the Centro Primo Levi Editions in concurrence with the CIMA exhibition.