Silent Revolutions: Italian Drawings from the Twentieth Century

Houston, Menil Collection
dal 14 Novembre 2020 al 11 Aprile 2021

The exhibition

Silent Revolutions: Italian Drawings from the Twentieth Century, is the first large-scale survey of twentieth-century Italian drawings mounted in the United States. The exhibition, presenting works largely selected from the Collezione Ramo in Milan, features 70 drawings by Umberto Boccioni, Alighiero Boetti, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Jannis Kounellis, Maria Lai, Carol Rama, and others. The works on view are augmented with several drawings from the Menil’s own collection.

For most of the twentieth century, Italy generated a continuous series of revolutionary artistic movements that significantly influenced international artists. From Futurism to Spatialism to Arte Povera, and beyond, artistic production in Italy was characterized by a high level of innovation. Nowhere was this creative spirit more manifest than in the realm of drawing, which gave Italian artists free rein to experiment with a wide range of materials and techniques and allowed them to create new artistic concepts and styles. Artists produced autonomous works in their own right, as well as studies exploring ideas to be potentially realized in other mediums. Through drawing, artists tackled themes as varied as history and myth, language, subjectivity, the body, the modern city, space, and abstraction.

The catalogue

This volume aims to emphasize the importance of drawing in the history of twentieth-century Italian art.
Drawing has constituted the underlying structure of every form of artistic experimentation, being the expressive vehicle of choice for painters and sculptors alike. If we consider the term in its broadest sense (that is, as an artwork on paper in any medium, including watercolour, collage, pastel or ink) drawing represents the first visualization of an idea, the foundation on which all artists have built. Drawing captures creativity in its most immediate state and in the most authentic manner possible, providing an insight into the genesis of a style. It is born of daily artistic practice and, given its private character, is never ‘censored’ or corrected.
This book attempts to overturn the traditional way of looking at drawing. It does not take the history of artistic movements or finished works as its starting point, only then going on to relate these to works on paper, but rather identifies genres, themes and styles in the drawings themselves, which span the whole of the twentieth century. The drawings are given a voice of their own.
Knowing how to read a drawing in terms of its details, visual associations and references to everyday life enables one to uncover the secret world of an artist, and enter into his or her thought process.



Irina Zucca Alessandrelli

Twentieth-century Italian Graphic Art from A to Z (From Accardi to Zorio)
Antonello Negri

Drawing a Century
Jeffrey Schnapp


Medardo Rosso, Conceptual Revolutionary
Equivocal Interpretations
Effects on Paper
On Wildt’s Drawings
The Futurists
For a Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe
The Interpenetration of Bodies and Simultaneity
Speed and Machines


The New Milan of Boccioni
Visions of Modernity
Metaphysical Peripheries
Between Myth and Nightmare
Divisionism, Futurism and Metaphysical Art
Calls to Order
The Dominance and the End of Style


The Beauty of the Rule
The Lure of the Ancient
Small and Large Histories
Cagnaccio di San Pietro
Anti-Classical Altarpieces and Anti-Fascist Realism
Non-objective Tendencies
A Forerunner
The Como Group
Milan, the Centre of Abstract Art
Another Road


A Weightless Time
Marini: The Miracle of the Line
Manzù: Drawing is Life
Consagra: Drawings that Open up Possibilities
The Sign of Fontana
Melotti: The Space and Time of a Note


The Forties
Purities and Impurities

AFTER 1945

Forms of Realism and Abstraction
From Neo-Cubism to Realism
Continuities between Futurism and Abstract Art
Milan: Spatialism, Nuclear Art, Azimuth
Rome: Artists of Sign and Gesture
The Material Dimension of Art Informel
Tancredi: Drawing is Freedom
A Rapid Ascent between Italy and American Museums
Tancredi’s Artistic Legacy on Paper. The Last Four Years of His Life


Domenico Gnoli: Renaissance Know-how
Enrico Castellani. Paper Reliefs
Thinking on Paper
High and Low between Neo-Dada and Piazza del Popolo
Inside Fabio Mauri’s Works on Paper
A Mistaken Definition of Roman Pop Art
Turin as Stage
In the Spotlight between the Late Sixties and the Early Seventies
Some ‘Poor’ Works on Paper
A Reluctant Torinese: Carol Rama
Revisiting the History of Art: Mondino and Salvo
Two Milanese Case Studies
An Artistic Crossroads: From the Cenobio Gallery to the Seventies
Transversal. Studio Marconi
Words and Images
Between Visual and Conceptual Poetry
Alphabets and Enigmatic Signs


Architecture, Design, Theatre, Advertising
Architectural Spaces
Toward an Aesthetic of the Domestic
Public Art
The Stage