for Paris UNESCO mural “Garden of Hope”
On 22nd May 1957 Afro was invited by the UNESCO Comité des conseillers artistique to carry out a mural for the wall of a lobby on the seventh floor of the new headquarters of the United Nations cultural organisation in Paris, as an integrating part of a remarkable project for decorating the building that saw great artists involved like Appel, Arp, Calder, Matta, Mirò, Moore, Noguchi, Picasso and Tamajo. It was a commission that unequivocally showed the international success of Afro・s work and which gave life to a work that was like the central stage of his artistic career and to which he dedicated himself heart and soul, absorbed in the solitude and silence of his studio at the Mills College in Oakland, California, where he was painter in residence from 1957 to June of the following year3. It is a known fact that his acceptance of the position as professor of painting was object of reflection and arguments with Catherine Viviano, who knew the American cultural environment very well and she was not happy with the idea of Afro accepting the proposal, as it could have damaged his prestige and his role as an artist; instead Afro found the opportunity inviting and stimulating.
During the early months of 1958 Afro carried out a series of studies and sketches in ink, charcoal, pen, watercolour and collage that would be exhibited at the Viviano Gallery from 18th May to 12th June 1959. The exhibition was very successful and the American critics favourably greeted the gestural scope of the drawings and the freedom from the forms. The existing difference between the final mural characterised by a substantial formal moderation and the preliminary studies that were further testimony of the research for an emotional and gestural immediacy which Afro investigated between 1957 and 1958 was immediately and then again later acknowledged and underlined.