The focus of this talk will be experience of women artists in Italy during the boom years for progressive art in the 1960s and ’70s. That period saw the rise of new ways of working with materials unprecedented in art. But the scene was, as one prominent critic described it, ‘predominantly male and capitalist’ despite the creative activity in numerous genres of many women who struggled for attention from a steadily globalising art market.
After introducing some of the figures emerging in these years – Maria Lai, Marisa Merz and Carol Rama among them – Martin Holman will concentrate on the career of just one, Ketty La Rocca.
‘La Rocca was one of the most distinctive Italian artists of the 70s.’ That is the opinion of one leading Italian critic about the groundbreaking artist, Ketty La Rocca. ‘The interdisciplinary nature of her work,’ the critic went on, ‘places her amid events, typical of the decade, that oscillated between visual poetry, installation and performance.’
In spite of this assessment, La Rocca is only now becoming well known, even in her native Italy, and rated as one of the most important artists in the international feminist avant-garde that emerged in the 1970s.
A pioneer of film in art and a radical example of an artistic practice spanning many media – photography, collage, sculpture, drawing, performance – she was unable to break into the male art world with her art and her writings during her lifetime. For years after her early death in 1976 from cancer, La Rocca was overlooked as the art history of this radical period was first being written.
Martin Holman has a special interest in recent Italian art, and has been involved in major exhibitions in the UK and Italy. He will talk about La Rocca’s remarkable ideas and output, and examine the reasons why her contribution was critically neglected for so long.