Development of Villa's Sculpture...
Born in Bergamo, Italy, Ecloardo Villa trained as a sculptor in Bergamo and
Milan. He now lives in Johannesburg with his wife, Claire, whom he married in
Villa's sculpture has been exhibited at ten international biennales in Venice,
Sao Paolo, and Valparaiso in the period 1956 to 1983.
His work has been shown in more than one hundred one-man and group shows, in
Milan, Rome, New York, Paris, London,
Sao Paolo, Taipei, Athens, Venice and South Africa.
In 1995, the Edoardo Villa Museum officially opens in Pretoria, South Africa to
celebrate the artist's 80th birthday.
Although his work at first glance appears to be non-representational, Villa is
an inherently figurative artist who draws his inspiration from his immediate
environment his main source of inspiration has always been man. His work,
however, cannot be described as representational, for the symbolism and imagery
Villa has invented is personal and independent of visual reality. Humor, the
sensual, aggression and the serious are various emotions experienced when
viewing Villa's sculptures. His work exudes a powerful inner energy.
Over the past fifty seven years Villa has created an unsurpassed body of work,
in number, quality, and scale. His works have become an integral part of the
quality of space in and around buildings in every South African city.
1935-1957: Years of early development, from classical, stylized, carved works
tending towards voluminous shapes while still in Italy, to more expressionistic
works in the early forties. Expansive, rounded forms followed in creating woman
as archetype during the late forties. Then Villa broke away to abstraction in
minimal torsos and plant-like figures. 1955 was a turning point with the
discovery of the use of metal, and a dramatic change with line and plane
becoming major formal elements expressing internal dynamic forces. Villa had
found construction in steel the method most suited to him.
1957-1970: Exploring construction by welding and attaining exuberance in bronze.
Villa works without sketches, directly in the material. Strips of metal give
rise to space enclosing compositions. The vertical framework, not always
figurative, becomes very important. Works start to express situations and
relationships. References to Africa increase. During the early sixties the
structures become more figurative, symmetrical, and frontality is prevalent,
emphasizing a hieratic quality. Color appears as a binding element in the
figurative works. Precise finish is a permanent characteristic. Villa regularly
returns to modelling resulting in reciprocal formal enrichening. The bolder,
fuller forms in clay are transposed to voluminous steel shapes. Found elements
of machines were assimilated to create humanized technology.
During the late sixties head studies, rather than portraits, occur. Forms are
reduced to the column, sphere and tube. The previously enclosed composition is
exploded to create many seated and horizontal figures in both bronze and steel,
called his playful giants. Size increases, as does the emotive value of physical
presence. With the reduction of symmetry, and increased gesture, large masses
become very dynamic. Universal themes of man in all guises predominate.
1971-1979: Further development of scale and multiple composition. Form is
drastically reduced to spindles and sheets; mass is dernaterialized, also by
shiny surfaces; line and plane dominate; mostly group compositions of parallel
elements with only very subtle reference to the human figure occur. Gesture is
controlled. The cut appears, creating subtle tension by suggesting instability.
In the mid-seventies the pipe or column becomes the prime formal element in
mainly vertical compositions symbolizing group relationships and the tensions
within them. Color now features strongly both as dernaterializing and binding
medium. In the late seventies Villa developed large groups, encompassing both
geometric and organic formal elements in his use of overlapping, cut open
rounded pipes and rectangular channels. The metal was allowed to rust, resulting
in a rich velvety patina, which was to influence his future use of color. The
vertical encapsulated composition was less evident, with open structures
becoming impersonal images of modern mechanical warfare, as can be seen in
"Confrontation" on the front page.
1980-1989: Evolution of a symphony of metal forms, both geometric and organic.
The large retrospective exhibition in 1980 was followed by a great variety of
abstract works before he returns to the figure, the main theme of his oeuvre.
The first combination of bronze organic shapes enclosed in steel geometric
containers, and the series of large asymmetrical "Prisoners" followed. The
sheets and bars open up to become steel structures, subtle symbols of both the
machine of war and the victim.
In the late eighties huge pipes and other rounded steel forms become
animalistic/ humanoid images, in which sparingly applied strong color appears to
accentuate the interior/exterior dichotomy. In these assertive works, Villa's
vitality and the freedom of form in space in his sculpture is affirmed.
1990-1993: Villa briefly ventures into a new medium - the found shapes of
polystyrene packaging. These brightly painted compositions give rise to compact,
textured bronzes, small icons of the fortified, the aggressor, the fortress.
These stimulate the incorporation of heavy, toothed forms into new steel
sculptures: vertical anthropomorphic or horizontal non-figurative compositions
in which the lively dialog between geometric form and organic structure and
rhythm continues, giving rise to ever more and richer interpretations of man and
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