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Seldom does the public have the opportunity to explore and appreciate a curated display of the works of a single artist from a seminal private collection. Keyes Art Mile is hosting a comprehensive exhibition of the work of Edoardo Villa (1915–2011), one of South Africa’s most enduringly popular sculptors.

The exhibition, Vertical Presence: The Sculpture of Edoardo Villa, facilitates the Villa dream of human participation, physical proximity and tactile engagement with his works. The Atrium forms the central home of the exhibition and sculptures flow into True Design and out onto Keyes Avenue for passersby and visitors to enjoy.

Villa first came to South Africa as a prisoner-of-war in the 1940s and stayed on after Work War II ended. In an interview, he spoke of the “opportunities available for the youth, the ‘open space’ as opposed to the ‘closed’ life of a continental.” He felt that, “Everything in Europe had been done, questioned and exhausted. Here, in Africa, I felt I had the opportunity to explore”.

In this exhibition, we are privileged to be able to view some of Villa’s early work, such as Seated Figure (1953, possibly referencing Alberto Giacometti), and the important work Vertical Form (1958), a sculpture that inspired the body of work Villa developed for his participation in the Venice Biennale of 1958, where he showed with Alexander Calder.

In the early 1960s, Villa became part of the Amadlosi Group, a collective brought together by gallerist Egon Guenther, which included such artists as Sydney Kumalo, Cecily Sash and Cecil Skotnes. The word ‘amadlosi’ means the ‘spirit of the ancestors’, and that was exactly what Villa strove for in his art. The influence of African art on his work is clearly visible in the mask-like Heraldic Figure (1963), as well as in Masai Girl(1963) and Head (1964).

In the 1970s, Villa worked extensively with steel, and the sculpture Tree (1977) is a classic example from this period. The work references the early twentieth century cubist style of Picasso and Braque, as well as Mondrian’s series of increasingly abstract deconstructed trees. Villa’s imposing War Figure (1980) could be seen as a comment on the volatile political situation in South Africa at the time it was made, and his ‘solution’ to the political stalemate in the country, it can be argued, is to be found in works such as The Conversation (1980).

Villa constructed an indelible place for himself in the history of South African sculpture. Esmé Berman distinguishes between carvers (including sculptors such as Willem Hendrickz, Elsa Dziomba, Lucas Sithole, Moses Kottler and Lippy Lipshitz), modellers (including sculptors such as Anton van Wouw, Coert Steynberg, Sydney Kumalo, Bruce Arnott and Ezrom Legae) and the fabricators and constructors, such as Edoardo Villa (and others, including Ian Redelinghuys, Gavin Younge, Malcolm Payne and Vincent Baloyi). Villa and the other constructors were in perfect step with international trends in sculpture, spearheaded by David Smith in the US and Anthony Caro in the UK.

A number of learning opportunities will be hosted during the course of the exhibition so that visitors will be able to learn more about the artist and engage with the work on display in various different ways:
  • Educational workshops on Thursday 11 April 2019
  • Walkabouts on Wednesday 17 April at 15:30 and on Saturday 20 April at 10:30
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Trumpet Buiding - Keyes Art Mile

From: 13 March 2019

To: 30 April 2019

Free Entrance





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