Alberto Biasi, the son of Giuseppe Biasi and Silvia Zappi Recordati, was born in Padua on 2 June 1937. His family had already produced an artist, Lavinia Fontana, a well-known name in 17th-century painting, and a poet, Tirsi Leucasio, a founder od the Arcadia academu together with Metastasio. Alberto soon lost his mother during the war and went to live with his paternal grandmother at Carrara San Giorgio, a small village in the country outside Padua, where she ran a tavern. He grew up in contact with the local people in an extended family atmosphere until his return to Padua to attend high school. This was followed by studies at the school od architecture and the advanced course of technical drawing in Venice, where he was awarded a scholarship created by Paolo Venini. These years marked the beginning of a passion for art with close study of the key 20th-century movements. Neoplasticism, Futurism and Dada are deeply rooted in the background of the young Biasi.
He started teaching technical drawing and art history in the public school system in 1958 and was assigned a permanent post as teacher of graphic arts applied to advertising, which he held uninterruptedly from 1969 to 1988. His own artistic activity took shape at the same time, and he received the first prize at the 4th Cittadella Youth Biennal from the hands of Virgilio Guidi in 1959, the first public award won by an artist who, though young, was already developinh various stimuli, political ideals and artistic concerns. The Group N was founded in Padua and Biasi, its guiding spirit, worked with it until its definitive dissolution in 1967. His contacts very soon extended to the national and internation level, and he e
xhibited work in the 1960s with Manzoni and Castellani as well as the European artists of the New Artistic Conception group. Fully involved in the ferment of those innovative years, he joined the Nuove Tendenze movement in 1961 and took part in the founding of the Arte Programmata movement in 1962 together with the rest of the Group N, Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari and the Group T.
Biasi based his own art on new canons in those early years. Interaction between the viewer and the work became an indispensable cornerstone and movement – in the passive sense of virtual motion, the appearance of movement – led the artist to address the problems of kinetics and the associated investigation of visual perception and the individual reaction to luminous stimuli. The activity of this periodi is marked by the Trame (Patterns), an initial study of the interference of the movement of vision and natural light on a layered static surface of natural character developed through the observation of complex and primitive elements like beehives. Alongside the Trame, he was soon producing Rilievi ottico-dinamici (Optical-Dynamic Reliefs) of laminar structures in contrasting colours superimposed so as to produce a visual event that depends on the movement of the spectator, who thus becomes an “actor” jointly involved in the work. The other series that made their appearance in this period include Forme dinamiche (Dynamic Forms) obtained throungh the torsion of thin sheets od material laid out in rigorously calculated geometric arrangements on backgrounds of different colours, Fotoriflessioni (Photoreflections) in real motion, and perceptually instable Ambienti (Environments), ever-changing atmospheres of light and liquid in motion. Prime examples of the latter include Grande Tuffo nell’arcobaleno (Great Dive into the rainbow), Eco (Echo), and the triptych Io sono, tu sei, egli è… quindi siamo (I am, you are, he is… therefore we are).
The Group N had broken up in the meantime, thus marking the end of a collective approach adopted as a result of strong political and ideological commitment (exemplified by the fact that Biasi described himself during this period as an “artistic operator”, thus stressing the social aspect of this activity). He continued on a solo basis developing themes that have been his “happy obsession” ever since. His civic commitment has, however, also continued over the years with full participation in the life of the city. As director of Padua’s provincial agency of tourism in the late 1970s and early 1980s he developed cultural and artistic projects regarding Padua, its cultural history and its surrounding natural environment. Meanwhile, his art went through new phases of study and experimentation. Deeper investigation of the impact of natural light led to the Politipi (Polytypes), a new series of works of unquestionable hypnotic power produced by means of torsions, the superimposing of planes and the interweaving of sheets and strips of material, thus interacting in the pursuit of harmonic movement with the third dimension of depth, alluded to more than actually addressed. The Politipi of the 1970s evolved in the following decade with elements of figuration. The perceptual effects became increasingly complex, attracted by a digural focus that encloses further three-dimensional effects of depth, illusions or realities of the light intercepted in the layer of superimposed material. The interplay between spectator-actor and work became increasingly structured and free, and form was enriched with readily recognizable images of which the eye can be confidently certain. Lurking within and circumscribed by them were, however, new optical “tricks” caused by the manipulation of light, which changes together with the shiftinh of viewpoint, thus attesting to and confirming the absolute variable od perception in the spectator. Thus questioned and challenged in the large-scale exhibition at the Museo degli Eremitani, padua, in 1988, the public responded enthusiastically with a great turnout (42.000 visitors).
The Politipi were then enriched in the 1990s with an element previuosly somewhat overlooked by Alberto Biasi, namely painting, through the insertion of colour, traces, shadows and allusions as a supporting counterpoint to the complex structure of layered surfaces. The resulting Assemblaggi (Assemblages), often produced as diptychs and triptychs, have developed in recent years an increasingly rigorous, coherent and severe handling of colour tending towards the monochromatic. In the combination and superimposition od assembled surfaces, the extreme rigor of monochrome highlights the “breaking point” of crisis in the linear reading, where the planes of colour converge in a three-dimensional source, thus alluding to an energy-generating space. And it is this space that costitutes the starting point for Biasi’s move towards sculpture, a new interest bus also one implicit in his oeuvre as a whole. Weathering steel, aluminium and methacrylate are the materials used by Biasi to address the challenge of three-dimensional space in large-sized works, some of which designed for open spaces. Totems vertical slabs and interrupted spirals, helical structures of closely meshed metal pipes, became transpositions and reinventions, the results of Biasi’s “happy obsession” and constant exploration in the field of visual perception.
After participation in the twelve exhibitions of the Group N, Biasi has held over one hundred solo shows and taken part in countless group events, including the Venice Biennial (32nd and 42nd), the Rome Quadrennial (10th, 11th and 14th), the Sao Paulo Biennial (11th) and the most important international biennials of graphic art. His numerous major international awards include in particular the prize obtained for the multiple Io sono in the 1973 World Print Competition jointly held by the California College od Arts and Crafts and the San Francisco Museum of Art. The exhibition of thirty works in the Hermitage, Saint Petesburg, in 2006 and the exhibition “Kaleidoscope: from Patterns to Assemblages” at the Museo del Palazzo Reale, Genoa, in 2009 were both highly successful.
Works by Biasi are to be found in the Modern Art Museum in New York, the Galleria Nazionale in Rome, the Hermitage in Saint Petesburg, the museums of Belgrade, Bolzano, Bratislava, Buenos Aires, Ciudad Bolivar, Epinal, Gallarate, Guayaquil, Livorno, Lodz, Ljubljana, Middletown, Padua, Prague, San Francisco, Saint Louis, Tokyo, Turin, Ulm, Venice, Waldenbuch, Wroclaw and Zagabria, and in numerous collections in Italy and other countries.
Edited by Isabella Panfido