The sacred in the work of aligi Sassu


‘After an extremely precocious début as a Futurist, Aligi Sassu became one of the protagonists of the young, radical, Neo-Expressionist Italian art of the thirties. The crisis which accompanied World War II caused the artist to turn to the great themes of the Passion, where the universal tragedy is identified with the tragedy of Christ. As it is typical of this period of his production, Sassu transfers the sacred contents to a sphere of mysterious, tremendous social and private drama, within a banality threatened by some obscure and irrevocable force. Ultimately also for Sassu, condemned as an active anti-Fascist to one and a half years in prison in 1937, the martyrdom of Christ and that of the peoples coincide perfectly. The «Crucifixion» is the equivalent of the «Execution in the Asturias», the «Deposition»’s counterpart is the burial of a partisan; human and divine tragedy are one and the same. In 1957 Sassu himself wrote, in the catalogue of the exhibition at the Galleria San Fedele, Milan, ‘From the first «Deposition» of 1931 until today the theme of Christ’s death has re-occurred in my work with an obsessive insistence. This theme has occupied my imagination as a configuration of the tragic, urgent condition of man in our time.’ From the forties onwards, Sassu has often dealt with an eminently catholic subject, the Church councils. What he finds fascinating in them is the suggestiveness of the rituals, the pomp displayed in manifestations which are also meant to be theatrical: he has in fact always given great value to the «theatre», in the sense of any event brought to a level higher than reality. A powerful love for life brings Sassu to regard the great artists, past and present, as a veritable poetic and expressive alphabet. From Goya, Michelangelo, Delacroix, Rubens, Ensor, he takes on the feelings and the symbols, rather than just imitating their style. In painting, as well as in his whole life, Sassu shows a furious, passionate predilection for creative vitality. Feelings, actions, passions arouse, with his curiosity, the need to create a language: the confused urgency of life becomes image, the mechanics of life are revealed by emotion. In the same catalogue Sassu writes: ‘That bridge which from our birth leads, step by step, to death is like a living blood vessel, revealing itself in all its sacred, tragic, grotesque elements, but always as the mirror of our humanity, of our anxiety for truth, for being true men among other men.’ We cannot therefore talk about a separate, ‘sacred’ Sassu; we can instead affirm, with Giorgio Mascherpa, that in his passion for life Sassu ‘has certainly not set religion apart, and in his secular ideological coherence has never denied respect to the religious faith, with its millenary charism of transcendent invitation to love for man and, in fact, for life…. entrusting himself to what is perhaps his highest artistic and human quality, the «purity of heart», which allows him to participate with simplicity of soul and intention in the life originating and manifesting itself in men’s hands and hearts.»’


21 Agosto 1983 - 28 Agosto 1983


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions