Pirro Cuniberti, invito ArtCity 2024

We are in Bologna, lined up one after the other, 12 heads, three dogs, and a mouse. Just lift our heads as we walk under the Pavaglione back and forth to see them all together.

They are banners featuring the artwork of Pirro Cuniberti hung under the portico during Arte Fiera and Art City, continuing the paths of his centenary, heads held high. For those who want to observe and get to know them with their own eyes, they can continue the journey to the Archaeological Museum, where, case after case, they will see the originals just as they are.

100 newborn years

On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Pier Achille (Pirro) Cuniberti, the Municipality of Bologna and the Pier Achille Cuniberti Archive “per Pirro e per Segno” are promoting a tribute dedicated to the figure of this important Italian artist of the 20th century. This tribute , which focuses on Pirro’s work and stylistic practices, includes various cross-disciplinary and parallel events and initiatives that will last until September 2024.

The special project symbolically begins on Sunday, September 10, 2023, when Cuniberti would have turned one hundred years old and when one of the windows of the Farnese Hall, overlooking Piazza Maggiore ,will be named after the artist.

Flaminio Gualdoni: "Maps of a Sign Hunter. Pirro Cuniberti"

Maps of a Sign Hunter. Pirro Cuniberti.

Flaminio Gualdoni

 

Once the work is complete, “servire in mano senza cornice” (serving into the hands without a frame). It was the conclusion of a revealing text that Pirro Cuniberti conceived in 1979 while announcing, with an understatement so typical of him the onset of his last extraordinary season of work.
Born du côté de chez Arcangeli, he passed through the bath of depicting the otherwise during the 1960s; it was during the second half of the 1970s that the artist ended up coming to terms with a painting in some way considered normative. He was happily entrenched in the territory that intimately was his good place, the design and boundless repertory of “useless signs” that could dwell on paper.

He gained strong certainties from his past experiences, along with a sort of creative inner awareness that he had no intention of bargaining off any longer. At the ethical level, he clearly refused to be a painter according to the conditions offered (and in some cases imposed) by the world around him. His participation in the life of art was deliberately from the sidelines. This was partially due to his innate reluctance and the total absence of shamelessness required to proclaim, being an artist, “I”. The lucid reading od the current condition of the artistic compound counted more than (when still not captivated by ideologies) what in any case was provided for by a hypertrophic rhetoric apparatus – playing a part in a comedy, obliging oneself to the trade and a cursus honorum, defining a brand asserted by critics, experiencing art in any case as a competition or at least as an affirmation, etc.- involving great elaborating endeavours at the source of at least dubious results: and surely, as the artist noted, not entertaining ones. Cuniberti lived, aspired to live, just as he was. He was completely drowned in existence, able to translate it into words with dry souplesse and the piquant eschewing wanderings of a great storyteller of the plains (as well known to those who, quorum ego, spent time with him amidst porticoes and hillsides, talking about chicken alla cacciatora recipes and Marco Ferreri, Giro d’Italia bicycle races and the virtues of Refosco wines: never “seriously” about art, since that is simply done).

He was jealous of his own clear and very erudite ingenuitas capable of holding together distracted narration and Klee, the fiercest nonchalance and first-class movie culture: in other words, real culture becoming life, neither high nor low, neither ennobling nor repulsing, not gratifying in and of itself, something that fuels what is and does not array what it only believes to be.
Doing is at the heart of this living. It naturally is not ritualized, does not call for liturgies and disciplinary trafficking: forthwith that Cuniberti’s time was entirely quality time, doing was the moment in which his intense bewitching undulation became the visual protagonist, in which the phantasmagorical stream that continuously dwelled within found him before the table amidst “pens, nibs, paintbrushes (lots of them are needed, but only three of them are used); set squares, rulers and compasses (not caring about the opinion, although an authoritative one, of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres who was firmly contrary to the use of these diabolical means)”, with “Indian ink (black); lead (H and HB hardness grade); colours (in the form of: coloured pencils, wax crayons, water-colours, tempera); glues (needed to obtain mysterious transparencies and singular shades); varnish (needed for gluing)”: and especially sheets of paper, the right pace for the occurrence of signs (“We said segni non sogni (signs, not dreams)” to quote Licini). In his exemplary 1979 text, from which the quotations have been drawn, Cuniberti mentioned the names of Ingres, Nicholson, Turner – well, even including Amanda Lear – and elsewhere those of Licini, and Klee, and Wols: but he never considered classicism and abstractism and informalism, or the sublime – art is something else.

Doing is drawing. Following years of painting, of exercises that were (for a slice of experience) also an exercise in becoming great, during the closing years of the 1970s Cuniberti knew, in a no longer negotiable way, that his path was the path of paper, of the dimension of levity that presided a condition of gentle acumen, of details that annulled the corporeity of gestures and did not require the eye to graze since it was all there, in the palm of one’s hand, in the close and happily perplexed measure of the gaze. Of the drawing, of the idea of drawing, he assumed – on paper and on the small panels flanking it, in equal understanding and responsibility – the sense of preventive authoritativeness, the value of results as moments-pauses: namely with Gadda, “some moment pauses: (intermission landings) of a cognitive-expressive flow (or ascension),” but without the presumption of ascending to nothing because his expressing never went from A to B while tracing an intentional direction, but simply because A and B existed and space (as willed by the companion Novelli) was a “little road for passing through”; because that very abstract and private space was, right there, a concrete place of experience, a significant measure of the motions of the intellect and mental sensitivity, of their becoming the nervous excitement of the hand.

A system of fragments, that is the image, and in turn giving itself as a fragment capable of a visual universe but only since possible visual and linguistic universes are infinite. In order to grasp reading, one must abolish all conventional distances, enter and tune into its rhythms, motions, relations, frequencies, and trends intrinsic to the same. Hence the actual lack of a dimensional problem, the reason for being of reduced measurements as the show and display would act as an abbreviation of reading time – which instead is a continuous, close, confidentially loosened enjoyment. Relatis referendis, one might ask which underground connection accosted Cuniberti to an artist he never had anything in common with – namely Campigli – the theoretician of “being elsewhere, being otherwise,” which seems to have been written for Pirro. None, relating to works and documents. None, since Cuniberti was anything but a man of nostalgia and yearnings. Much, if, mentioning Campigli again, one considers that he also cultivated “games, dreams, disguises.” Much, if one thinks that he had the daily existential courage of being otherwise: and therefore his elsewhere was not only being located in an “aside” that was remarkable yet unmistakable compared to the current debate, but also and especially with regard to the reason for being itself of expressing. Drawing, for Cuniberti, was leading painting entirely back to thinking in terms of drawing.
Beginning with the essential attainment from which his season of success unfolded. He conventionally assumed the rectangle of the surface, but left space (concrete and qualified in and of itself, and very theoretical at the same time) in the statute of physical projection of the mind. Events deposited themselves there by independent reason, aware of the support but also of their own capacity of deciding it on location: by centripetal densities – nearly a window in a window: but there vision was all but anchored to the reference – or playing with codes and conventions, from a hint of horizon to imagining cunningly three-dimensional projections, to the crowding and colliding of different expectations of place, to the floating of signs scattered through space “immédiat, total. A gauche, aussi, à droite, en profondeur, à volonté… Dans un instant tout est là. Tout, mais rien n’est connu encore. C’est ici qu’il faut commencer à LIRE”, as willed by Michaux, including referential traces swallowed and rendered in this asymmetry of signs.
It was not the case of technical expedients. In the gathered dimension of the sheet of paper, of the panel, in these signs that marked differentials in the absence of static, as if floating and locking elliptical short stories narrating the signs themselves, at another level Cuniberti summoned different plots and made them collide with one another.

Noticing the default of his own role as originator, wittily and slyly lowering his approach to the semblance of a pure affective divertissement, he guaranteed his own doing with an attitude of absolute non-emotion towards the visual material in play, the predicaments of a poetry that was not searched for, dodging from all suspicions and all dubiousness of method. His constitution was that of a gluttonous jotter of en marges thoughts; he knew and reconsidered the mechanisms of meaning only to dramatically de structure and de-identify them, subjecting them to further possibilities of state, of evidence, of occurrence. He brought back into play (by a malicious contamination of codes) rhetorical schemes going from the catalogue to the map, from the diaphragm to iteration with variants, from riskiness to a chipped and alienated figural appropriateness.

And the titles supported, or rather they themselves became the title block of a narration – in any case- or better of a narration where textual enunciation was not ancillary compared to other signs, but rather another layer of code and an additional degree of imaginative deviance: “I am fascinated by titles, as they are already a place of invention,” he said. Just a few to mention: Museo dei segni (1975), Natura morta con tre piani e sette segni inutili (1979), Museo di segni inutili (1979), the small seriesRaccolta di segni e di pennellate (1991), including Mappa di un cacciatore di segni (1982), Mappa della terra di T.T. con i suoi undici abitanti (1983), Una fiaba dall’autobiografia (1985), Racconto affollato (1988), Rapporto ostico (1989). All methods of a happily elliptical narration, with quality differing from the ordinary, entirely depending upon their own paces, their own movements, their own behaviour.
Hence Cuniberti experienced his own work in an anti-heroic manner: “Painting is always more of a struggle with myself to put some signs on paper, carefully avoiding doing stupid things.” Reluctant to his own evident quality as an artist, a subtly impertinent one, he subtracted practice from ideology and from affirmation as he only asked himself for amazements, disseminated fragments of intensity that lived detached from the mediocre dissipation of reason, of imagination, of intelligence. He did not want to épater anyone: perhaps himself sometimes.
He did not want to convince anyone as he stated that he didn’t know anything worth convincing oneself of.
Then, if we will, if we want to play along, we can also savour the corrosive implication of his sweet and digressing irony, and his renowned otherness is actually overturned into a pressing reasoning on art, on its wretched seriousness. And it is exactly because Cuniberti does not have any explanation to offer us regarding the world that he actually helps us in staying here, in the world.

 

Biography

1923
Pier Achille (Pirro) Cuniberti was born on 10 September in Padulle di Sala Bolognese. Son of Emilio Cuniberti, sales representative of Masonite (material that starting from the end of the 1970s will be for Pirro fundamental), and Zaira Monari who will grow five children: Pier Achille, Maria, Clelia, Nando, Emanuele. His parents will be the ones who will encourage him in drawing after he won, in 1933, the “Argonali” for drawing organized by the Opera Nazionale Balilla.

1934
He failed the granimar school entrance exam and enrolled in business school. Obsessed by the fabrication of flying and small plane models, during this school phase he did well only in literary subjects and drawing thanks to the good teacher he had.

1939
After graduating in business school, he enrolled at the Regia Scuola per Industrie Artistiche in Bologna where he attended the lessons of Professors Ferdinando (technical drawing) and son Ruggero Rossi (figure drawing) of whom he will always say: ‘They taught me all I really need to know in my effort to make art.”

1943
In February was draft noticed and sent to the II° Grenadier Regiment of Sardinia. During the tragic days defending Rome, in particular the evening of the 10th of September, his twentieth birthday, the military stronghold n. 11, where Cuniberti was a telephone operator, was attacked by the German. Slightly injured, he was able to reach Bologna only five days later. In June, during a short leave, he attended, wearing his military uniform, the entrance exam to the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna where he will be admitted.

1944
Always in February he was recalled for service and assigned to Germany to train in the Black Forest. One day during training in the forest he saw a chalet with the doors completely opened and went inside to look for papers to stuff inside the uniform in order to try to keep his body warmer. He took the first poster he found, he folded it, stuffed it inside his uniform and that evening when he removed it he found out that the poster was a print re production of”a modest room with a bed, a small table and two straw chairs.” He oftenly looked at that print which had these words written on it: “Vincent Van Gogh, Chambre d’Arles, 1889.” He will later comment: “I was struck by the simplicity of that ‘sketched painting.”’ After the end of the war, he returned to Bologna and went searching art books. He was lucky to find a series, printed during the war, dedicated to contemporary artists.

1945-1948
Pupil of Giorgio Morandi and Giovanni Romagnoli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna.

1948
After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, he cooperated with the Mingozzi advertising studio and with the publicity department of Ducati under the direction of Enzo Biagi. This was also the year of the first postwar Biennial that was for Pirro fundamental; he went to Venice “to see” Vincent Van Gogh and discovered Paul Klee, who he will define as his “daddy.”

1949
He attended a, course held by Virgilio Guidi and made many drawings, pastels, tempera on paper and small oil canvases, but of this initial phase he will destroy everything. He made lasting friendships with Vasco Bendini, Sergio Romiti and Sergio Vacchi. With ex-schoolmate Franco Lodoli he discovered French poetry.

1950
He started to work with Dino Gavina on displays and stands for the trade fairs.

1952
He “discovered” the ballpoint pen with which he will make drawings, on typing paper, which achieved abstraction.

1953
The painting department of the Bologna Art School was going to be closed and Cuniberti’s old teacher Rossi invited him to take into consideration the possibility to teach. In March he got the job teaching Professional Drawing in the Deaprtment of Artistic Decoration. He will go on to direct its workshop and subsequently the Ceramic Arts workshop too. He left teaching in 1978, embittered by the state of chaos prevailing in the schools.

1955
On the 15th of June he married Laura (Lalla) Baisi with whom he will have three daughters: Barbara (1956), Monica (1958), Emanuela (1960). Lalla will also be the indefatigable bibliographer and cataloguer of her husband’s work.

1957
In December he inaugurated his first solo exhibition, presented by Francesco Arcangeli, at the Circolo Culturale in Bologna.

1965
He was invited to the Quadriennale of Rome.

1966
In the XII Premio Spoleto, he was awarded a prize for the painting Tentativo di dialogo con un ufficiale di frontiera.

1972
Invited to the X Quadriennale d’ Arte of Rome, he presented the works: II desiderio del volo, Progetto di sistemazione di una collina, II motociclista biondo, L’angelo del mattino controlla l’agricoltura, La favola dell’inquinatore, Senza titolo. Enzo Biagi, at the time director of II Resto del Carlino, invited him to oversee the layout of their publications.

1976
I Disegni di Cuniberti 1948-1975, over one hundred drawings presented by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli and displayed at the Galleria San Luca in Bologna.

1979
He abandoned the canvas in favour of Masonite (hardboard) panels, which were primed using dabbed-on acrylic paint and painted using acrylic colours that were initially highly diluted, also making use of crayons and graphite.

1982
He participated in Livres d’art et d’artistes at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

1984
In the education department of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, he presented Vita d’artista. This was Cuniberti’s first survey exhibition presented by Andrea Emiliani and curated by Paolo Fossati and Dario Trento. In the same year Feltrinelli published Stranalandia, the result of an intense double work with the writer Stefano Benni.

1987
He painted a large panel for the headquarters of the Regione Emilia-Romagna.

1991
Pirro mounted an exhibition with a retrospective slant at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, presented by Claudio Cerritelli.

1992
He produced in collaboration with Giosetta Fioroni, with drawings by both, the book Mano Doble (Edizioni Exit, Lugo).

1996
He was invited to the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, by Professor Paola Barocchi, for a seminar on his work, conducted by Paolo Fossati. The same year, for the publisher Einaudi, he illustrated La trilogia del Capitano Nemo by Jules Verne.

1998
The Parol-quademi d’arte magazine, under the direction of Luciano Nanni, dedicated its monographic section to Cuniberti, curated by Silvia Pegoraro with contributions by Claudio Cerritelli, Paolo Fossati, Silvia Pegoraro, Giorgio Sandri, Claudio Spadoni and Dario Trento.

1999
He designed the logo for the “Bologna 2000 European City of Culture.”

2003
He inaugurated an important survey exhibition at the Museo archeologico in Bologna, curated by Claudio Cerritelli e Dario Trento, then mounted at the Casa de! Mantegna in Mantova.

2004
He exhibited at. the Italian Institute of Culture in London and Berlin.

2007
Exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera curated by Claudio Cerritelli e Dario Trento.

2008
First important solo exhibition in the United States at the ESSO Gallery in New York.

2016
He died on March 5 in Bologna.  

They have written about him:
Francesco Arcangeli, Renato Barilli, Stefano Benni, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Pietro Bonfiglioli, Claudio Cerritelli, Enrico Crispolti, Fabrizio D’Amico, Paolo Fossati, Flaminio Gualdoni, Andrea Emiliani, Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, Roberto Pasini, Silvia Pegoraro, Robereto Roversi, Franco Solmi, Roberto Tassi, Dario Trento, Peter Weiermeier

Ci sono a Bologna, in fila uno dopo l’altro,12 teste tre cani e un topo: basta alzare le nostre di teste camminando sotto il Pavaglione avanti e indietro, per vederli tutti insieme

Sono gli stendardi dei disegni di Pirro Cuniberti appesi sotto al portico durante Arte Fiera e Art City, per continuare le vie del suo centenario, a testa alta. Chi li vuole osservare e conoscere avendoli sotto gli occhi invece, può continuare il percorso fino al museo Archeologico, dove teca dopo teca ,vedranno gli originali tali e quali. L’esposizione è curata da Lorenzo Balbi.

100 newborn years

On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Pier Achille (Pirro) Cuniberti, the Municipality of Bologna and the Pier Achille Cuniberti Archive “per Pirro e per Segno” are promoting a tribute dedicated to the figure of this important Italian artist of the 20th century. This tribute , which focuses on Pirro’s work and stylistic practices, includes various cross-disciplinary and parallel events and initiatives that will last until September 2024.

The special project symbolically begins on Sunday, September 10, 2023, when Cuniberti would have turned one hundred years old and when one of the windows of the Farnese Hall, overlooking Piazza Maggiore ,will be named after the artist.

Flaminio Gualdoni: "Maps of a Sign Hunter. Pirro Cuniberti"

Maps of a Sign Hunter. Pirro Cuniberti.

Flaminio Gualdoni

 

Once the work is complete, “servire in mano senza cornice” (serving into the hands without a frame). It was the conclusion of a revealing text that Pirro Cuniberti conceived in 1979 while announcing, with an understatement so typical of him the onset of his last extraordinary season of work.
Born du côté de chez Arcangeli, he passed through the bath of depicting the otherwise during the 1960s; it was during the second half of the 1970s that the artist ended up coming to terms with a painting in some way considered normative. He was happily entrenched in the territory that intimately was his good place, the design and boundless repertory of “useless signs” that could dwell on paper.

He gained strong certainties from his past experiences, along with a sort of creative inner awareness that he had no intention of bargaining off any longer. At the ethical level, he clearly refused to be a painter according to the conditions offered (and in some cases imposed) by the world around him. His participation in the life of art was deliberately from the sidelines. This was partially due to his innate reluctance and the total absence of shamelessness required to proclaim, being an artist, “I”. The lucid reading od the current condition of the artistic compound counted more than (when still not captivated by ideologies) what in any case was provided for by a hypertrophic rhetoric apparatus – playing a part in a comedy, obliging oneself to the trade and a cursus honorum, defining a brand asserted by critics, experiencing art in any case as a competition or at least as an affirmation, etc.- involving great elaborating endeavours at the source of at least dubious results: and surely, as the artist noted, not entertaining ones. Cuniberti lived, aspired to live, just as he was. He was completely drowned in existence, able to translate it into words with dry souplesse and the piquant eschewing wanderings of a great storyteller of the plains (as well known to those who, quorum ego, spent time with him amidst porticoes and hillsides, talking about chicken alla cacciatora recipes and Marco Ferreri, Giro d’Italia bicycle races and the virtues of Refosco wines: never “seriously” about art, since that is simply done).

He was jealous of his own clear and very erudite ingenuitas capable of holding together distracted narration and Klee, the fiercest nonchalance and first-class movie culture: in other words, real culture becoming life, neither high nor low, neither ennobling nor repulsing, not gratifying in and of itself, something that fuels what is and does not array what it only believes to be.
Doing is at the heart of this living. It naturally is not ritualized, does not call for liturgies and disciplinary trafficking: forthwith that Cuniberti’s time was entirely quality time, doing was the moment in which his intense bewitching undulation became the visual protagonist, in which the phantasmagorical stream that continuously dwelled within found him before the table amidst “pens, nibs, paintbrushes (lots of them are needed, but only three of them are used); set squares, rulers and compasses (not caring about the opinion, although an authoritative one, of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres who was firmly contrary to the use of these diabolical means)”, with “Indian ink (black); lead (H and HB hardness grade); colours (in the form of: coloured pencils, wax crayons, water-colours, tempera); glues (needed to obtain mysterious transparencies and singular shades); varnish (needed for gluing)”: and especially sheets of paper, the right pace for the occurrence of signs (“We said segni non sogni (signs, not dreams)” to quote Licini). In his exemplary 1979 text, from which the quotations have been drawn, Cuniberti mentioned the names of Ingres, Nicholson, Turner – well, even including Amanda Lear – and elsewhere those of Licini, and Klee, and Wols: but he never considered classicism and abstractism and informalism, or the sublime – art is something else.

Doing is drawing. Following years of painting, of exercises that were (for a slice of experience) also an exercise in becoming great, during the closing years of the 1970s Cuniberti knew, in a no longer negotiable way, that his path was the path of paper, of the dimension of levity that presided a condition of gentle acumen, of details that annulled the corporeity of gestures and did not require the eye to graze since it was all there, in the palm of one’s hand, in the close and happily perplexed measure of the gaze. Of the drawing, of the idea of drawing, he assumed – on paper and on the small panels flanking it, in equal understanding and responsibility – the sense of preventive authoritativeness, the value of results as moments-pauses: namely with Gadda, “some moment pauses: (intermission landings) of a cognitive-expressive flow (or ascension),” but without the presumption of ascending to nothing because his expressing never went from A to B while tracing an intentional direction, but simply because A and B existed and space (as willed by the companion Novelli) was a “little road for passing through”; because that very abstract and private space was, right there, a concrete place of experience, a significant measure of the motions of the intellect and mental sensitivity, of their becoming the nervous excitement of the hand.

A system of fragments, that is the image, and in turn giving itself as a fragment capable of a visual universe but only since possible visual and linguistic universes are infinite. In order to grasp reading, one must abolish all conventional distances, enter and tune into its rhythms, motions, relations, frequencies, and trends intrinsic to the same. Hence the actual lack of a dimensional problem, the reason for being of reduced measurements as the show and display would act as an abbreviation of reading time – which instead is a continuous, close, confidentially loosened enjoyment. Relatis referendis, one might ask which underground connection accosted Cuniberti to an artist he never had anything in common with – namely Campigli – the theoretician of “being elsewhere, being otherwise,” which seems to have been written for Pirro. None, relating to works and documents. None, since Cuniberti was anything but a man of nostalgia and yearnings. Much, if, mentioning Campigli again, one considers that he also cultivated “games, dreams, disguises.” Much, if one thinks that he had the daily existential courage of being otherwise: and therefore his elsewhere was not only being located in an “aside” that was remarkable yet unmistakable compared to the current debate, but also and especially with regard to the reason for being itself of expressing. Drawing, for Cuniberti, was leading painting entirely back to thinking in terms of drawing.
Beginning with the essential attainment from which his season of success unfolded. He conventionally assumed the rectangle of the surface, but left space (concrete and qualified in and of itself, and very theoretical at the same time) in the statute of physical projection of the mind. Events deposited themselves there by independent reason, aware of the support but also of their own capacity of deciding it on location: by centripetal densities – nearly a window in a window: but there vision was all but anchored to the reference – or playing with codes and conventions, from a hint of horizon to imagining cunningly three-dimensional projections, to the crowding and colliding of different expectations of place, to the floating of signs scattered through space “immédiat, total. A gauche, aussi, à droite, en profondeur, à volonté… Dans un instant tout est là. Tout, mais rien n’est connu encore. C’est ici qu’il faut commencer à LIRE”, as willed by Michaux, including referential traces swallowed and rendered in this asymmetry of signs.
It was not the case of technical expedients. In the gathered dimension of the sheet of paper, of the panel, in these signs that marked differentials in the absence of static, as if floating and locking elliptical short stories narrating the signs themselves, at another level Cuniberti summoned different plots and made them collide with one another.

Noticing the default of his own role as originator, wittily and slyly lowering his approach to the semblance of a pure affective divertissement, he guaranteed his own doing with an attitude of absolute non-emotion towards the visual material in play, the predicaments of a poetry that was not searched for, dodging from all suspicions and all dubiousness of method. His constitution was that of a gluttonous jotter of en marges thoughts; he knew and reconsidered the mechanisms of meaning only to dramatically de structure and de-identify them, subjecting them to further possibilities of state, of evidence, of occurrence. He brought back into play (by a malicious contamination of codes) rhetorical schemes going from the catalogue to the map, from the diaphragm to iteration with variants, from riskiness to a chipped and alienated figural appropriateness.

And the titles supported, or rather they themselves became the title block of a narration – in any case- or better of a narration where textual enunciation was not ancillary compared to other signs, but rather another layer of code and an additional degree of imaginative deviance: “I am fascinated by titles, as they are already a place of invention,” he said. Just a few to mention: Museo dei segni (1975), Natura morta con tre piani e sette segni inutili (1979), Museo di segni inutili (1979), the small seriesRaccolta di segni e di pennellate (1991), including Mappa di un cacciatore di segni (1982), Mappa della terra di T.T. con i suoi undici abitanti (1983), Una fiaba dall’autobiografia (1985), Racconto affollato (1988), Rapporto ostico (1989). All methods of a happily elliptical narration, with quality differing from the ordinary, entirely depending upon their own paces, their own movements, their own behaviour.
Hence Cuniberti experienced his own work in an anti-heroic manner: “Painting is always more of a struggle with myself to put some signs on paper, carefully avoiding doing stupid things.” Reluctant to his own evident quality as an artist, a subtly impertinent one, he subtracted practice from ideology and from affirmation as he only asked himself for amazements, disseminated fragments of intensity that lived detached from the mediocre dissipation of reason, of imagination, of intelligence. He did not want to épater anyone: perhaps himself sometimes.
He did not want to convince anyone as he stated that he didn’t know anything worth convincing oneself of.
Then, if we will, if we want to play along, we can also savour the corrosive implication of his sweet and digressing irony, and his renowned otherness is actually overturned into a pressing reasoning on art, on its wretched seriousness. And it is exactly because Cuniberti does not have any explanation to offer us regarding the world that he actually helps us in staying here, in the world.

 

Biography

1923
Pier Achille (Pirro) Cuniberti was born on 10 September in Padulle di Sala Bolognese. Son of Emilio Cuniberti, sales representative of Masonite (material that starting from the end of the 1970s will be for Pirro fundamental), and Zaira Monari who will grow five children: Pier Achille, Maria, Clelia, Nando, Emanuele. His parents will be the ones who will encourage him in drawing after he won, in 1933, the “Argonali” for drawing organized by the Opera Nazionale Balilla.

1934
He failed the granimar school entrance exam and enrolled in business school. Obsessed by the fabrication of flying and small plane models, during this school phase he did well only in literary subjects and drawing thanks to the good teacher he had.

1939
After graduating in business school, he enrolled at the Regia Scuola per Industrie Artistiche in Bologna where he attended the lessons of Professors Ferdinando (technical drawing) and son Ruggero Rossi (figure drawing) of whom he will always say: ‘They taught me all I really need to know in my effort to make art.”

1943
In February was draft noticed and sent to the II° Grenadier Regiment of Sardinia. During the tragic days defending Rome, in particular the evening of the 10th of September, his twentieth birthday, the military stronghold n. 11, where Cuniberti was a telephone operator, was attacked by the German. Slightly injured, he was able to reach Bologna only five days later. In June, during a short leave, he attended, wearing his military uniform, the entrance exam to the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna where he will be admitted.

1944
Always in February he was recalled for service and assigned to Germany to train in the Black Forest. One day during training in the forest he saw a chalet with the doors completely opened and went inside to look for papers to stuff inside the uniform in order to try to keep his body warmer. He took the first poster he found, he folded it, stuffed it inside his uniform and that evening when he removed it he found out that the poster was a print re production of”a modest room with a bed, a small table and two straw chairs.” He oftenly looked at that print which had these words written on it: “Vincent Van Gogh, Chambre d’Arles, 1889.” He will later comment: “I was struck by the simplicity of that ‘sketched painting.”’ After the end of the war, he returned to Bologna and went searching art books. He was lucky to find a series, printed during the war, dedicated to contemporary artists.

1945-1948
Pupil of Giorgio Morandi and Giovanni Romagnoli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna.

1948
After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, he cooperated with the Mingozzi advertising studio and with the publicity department of Ducati under the direction of Enzo Biagi. This was also the year of the first postwar Biennial that was for Pirro fundamental; he went to Venice “to see” Vincent Van Gogh and discovered Paul Klee, who he will define as his “daddy.”

1949
He attended a, course held by Virgilio Guidi and made many drawings, pastels, tempera on paper and small oil canvases, but of this initial phase he will destroy everything. He made lasting friendships with Vasco Bendini, Sergio Romiti and Sergio Vacchi. With ex-schoolmate Franco Lodoli he discovered French poetry.

1950
He started to work with Dino Gavina on displays and stands for the trade fairs.

1952
He “discovered” the ballpoint pen with which he will make drawings, on typing paper, which achieved abstraction.

1953
The painting department of the Bologna Art School was going to be closed and Cuniberti’s old teacher Rossi invited him to take into consideration the possibility to teach. In March he got the job teaching Professional Drawing in the Deaprtment of Artistic Decoration. He will go on to direct its workshop and subsequently the Ceramic Arts workshop too. He left teaching in 1978, embittered by the state of chaos prevailing in the schools.

1955
On the 15th of June he married Laura (Lalla) Baisi with whom he will have three daughters: Barbara (1956), Monica (1958), Emanuela (1960). Lalla will also be the indefatigable bibliographer and cataloguer of her husband’s work.

1957
In December he inaugurated his first solo exhibition, presented by Francesco Arcangeli, at the Circolo Culturale in Bologna.

1965
He was invited to the Quadriennale of Rome.

1966
In the XII Premio Spoleto, he was awarded a prize for the painting Tentativo di dialogo con un ufficiale di frontiera.

1972
Invited to the X Quadriennale d’ Arte of Rome, he presented the works: II desiderio del volo, Progetto di sistemazione di una collina, II motociclista biondo, L’angelo del mattino controlla l’agricoltura, La favola dell’inquinatore, Senza titolo. Enzo Biagi, at the time director of II Resto del Carlino, invited him to oversee the layout of their publications.

1976
I Disegni di Cuniberti 1948-1975, over one hundred drawings presented by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli and displayed at the Galleria San Luca in Bologna.

1979
He abandoned the canvas in favour of Masonite (hardboard) panels, which were primed using dabbed-on acrylic paint and painted using acrylic colours that were initially highly diluted, also making use of crayons and graphite.

1982
He participated in Livres d’art et d’artistes at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

1984
In the education department of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, he presented Vita d’artista. This was Cuniberti’s first survey exhibition presented by Andrea Emiliani and curated by Paolo Fossati and Dario Trento. In the same year Feltrinelli published Stranalandia, the result of an intense double work with the writer Stefano Benni.

1987
He painted a large panel for the headquarters of the Regione Emilia-Romagna.

1991
Pirro mounted an exhibition with a retrospective slant at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, presented by Claudio Cerritelli.

1992
He produced in collaboration with Giosetta Fioroni, with drawings by both, the book Mano Doble (Edizioni Exit, Lugo).

1996
He was invited to the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, by Professor Paola Barocchi, for a seminar on his work, conducted by Paolo Fossati. The same year, for the publisher Einaudi, he illustrated La trilogia del Capitano Nemo by Jules Verne.

1998
The Parol-quademi d’arte magazine, under the direction of Luciano Nanni, dedicated its monographic section to Cuniberti, curated by Silvia Pegoraro with contributions by Claudio Cerritelli, Paolo Fossati, Silvia Pegoraro, Giorgio Sandri, Claudio Spadoni and Dario Trento.

1999
He designed the logo for the “Bologna 2000 European City of Culture.”

2003
He inaugurated an important survey exhibition at the Museo archeologico in Bologna, curated by Claudio Cerritelli e Dario Trento, then mounted at the Casa de! Mantegna in Mantova.

2004
He exhibited at. the Italian Institute of Culture in London and Berlin.

2007
Exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera curated by Claudio Cerritelli e Dario Trento.

2008
First important solo exhibition in the United States at the ESSO Gallery in New York.

2016
He died on March 5 in Bologna.  

They have written about him:
Francesco Arcangeli, Renato Barilli, Stefano Benni, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Pietro Bonfiglioli, Claudio Cerritelli, Enrico Crispolti, Fabrizio D’Amico, Paolo Fossati, Flaminio Gualdoni, Andrea Emiliani, Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, Roberto Pasini, Silvia Pegoraro, Robereto Roversi, Franco Solmi, Roberto Tassi, Dario Trento, Peter Weiermeier