'When I came here the other day, I entered this room and saw this painting,' explained Roberta Cerini Baj, the widow of the Italian artist Enrico Baj. The painting she was referring to was The Double Grande Jatte, a 1971 mural by Baj influenced by Georges Seurat’s iconic painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Baj’s cheeky rendition, which acts as a social commentary on the bourgeois lifestyle that Seurat depicted, was last exhibited in the United States at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1971. 'It has been a great emotion to see it again, so fresh like it was finished the other day, and so many memories came to my mind, and this is nice to have memories of old times, and a sort of tenderness,' recounts Roberta.
Baj’s The Double Grande Jatte, is part of the first retrospective of his work in the United States since 1971, now on view at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York. Baj, who was an intellectual as well as an artist, eschewed the abstraction that was popular during the postwar period, instead adopting the quirky and the kitsch, co-founding the Nuclear Art movement with Sergio Dangelo in 1951. The survey takes viewers on a journey through the artist's repertoire, from his Modifications series, which takes imagery derived from thrift-store paintings and nudes, and combines it with his own monstrous figures that he called 'Ultra Bodies'. Upstairs, his Generals and Ladies series display Baj’s gift for collage and his ability to turn various trimmings into fantastical figures. On the other side of the room, his furniture series brings objects that one would overlook to life, with layers of rich textures.
'You can see the freshness of the work,' says Italian curator Francesco Bonami, who continues, 'This is a great opportunity to see what the spirit of a certain Italian ingenuity that I hope has come back, and come back with the strength of Enrico Baj.'