Angeli’s self-taught practice began at the end of the 1950’s with his first paintings taking
the same approach as Alberto Burri. He notes:
Matter for me is just a fragment of the enormous tear that overwhelmed Europe; my
first paintings looked just like that, like a wound after you have removed the
bandage…after the blood has dried and there is no longer a vivid red mark. (G. De
Marco, Piazza del Popolo: 1950-1960, form La Tartaruga – Quaderno d’arte e di letteratura,
n. 5/6, March 1989, pp. 105).
One of the most significant Italian artists of his generation, he was a seminal figure in the art
world in Rome, regularly exhibiting at La Tartaruga, L’Appunto and La Salita.
Angeli’s work references socio-political issues with minimalist aesthetics that typify Italian
artistic heritage. Yet his works shared a new vision, focusing on current events of social and
political upheaval along with artists such as: Tano Festa, Mario Schifano, Pino Pascali, Jannis
Kounellis, and Fabio Mauri. Angeli’s works were further inspired by the ‘eternal city’ of
Rome and its unique urban landscape.
A contemporary of Tano Festa, Francesco Lo Savio, Mario Schifano and Pino Pascali,
Angeli’s work is amongst the strongest of his generation, known for his bold, outspoken
symbolism. Angeli began working in art in the 1950s as a reaction to the devastation of
WWII and as a platform to expose his leftist/communistic views.
My first paintings are the proof of my everyday contact with the streets. I saw the
ruins and the gravestones. I saw ancient and modern symbols such as the eagle and
the swastika alongside the sickle and hammer; and then obelisks, statues and Roman
she-wolves. All of these icons create such a dynamic and invigorating energy that
help in my adventure with paint Franco Angeli (M. Calvesi, Un pensiero sul Destino, in
Franco Angeli. Quadri da una Collezione, exhibition catalog, Galleria dé Serpenti, Roma,
Angeli takes these iconic symbols and creates a new context, which then permeates into our
unconscious. He does this by using unconventional materials such as: chalk, tulle, nylon
socks, and industrial glaze, what is left are strong artworks that leave an imprint into the
viewer such as E da una Ferita Scaturí Bellezza (1957); Povera Francia (1961); Bella Ciao;
Omaggio a Dine (1963); United States of America (1965); Natale di Roma (1966); Abbraccio
Eterno 1968-69). After eight years of investigative work, the archive have been incredibly
valuable in increasing the prestige of Italian art from that time, which has already been
highlighted in exhibitions such as The World Goes Pop, (Tate Modern, London (2015-16) and
Imagine: New Imagery in Italian Art 1960-1969 (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
With works dissecting the church, morality, politics and social insecurity, his iconography
investigates the state of dissolution of the time in different social sectors, but also seem so
relevant in confronting the political uncertainty of contemporary society today. Shrouded
and faded, the symbols are each covered by a veil of paint or tulle.
A veil that paradoxically wakes from an alert consciousness into a certain sharp
numbness. A veil that keeps you away, but lets you in simultaneously. In this
movement dwells the originality and the reverence of an extraordinary painter.
(M. Calvesi, Un pensiero sul Destino, in Franco Angeli. Quadri da una Collezione,
exhibition catalog, Galleria dé Serpenti, Roma, November 1991).