The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles Unveils “ITALIANITÀ: Italian Diaspora Artists Examine Identity”

By Nicole Muj

The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) has opened its doors to a new, collective exhibition “ITALIANITÀ: Italian Diaspora Artists Examine Identity,” now open to the public through January 13, 2019. The exhibition features celebrated artists Joseph Stella, Ralph Fasanella, Italo Scanga, Leo Politi, Paolo Soleri, Luigia Martelloni, Cynthia Minet, and Robert Peluce, among others.

In the arts, the term diaspora refers to artists or their ancestors who have migrated from one part of the world to another. Their diverse experiences influence their work, which explores themes such as dual identity, memory, folklore, faith, dislocation, and migration. The artists create alternative narratives and challenge the established notions of belonging.

Between 1876 and 1914, fourteen million people left Italy during what was one of the largest migrations in history; millions more would emigrate in the years following World War II.

Using the visual arts as a vehicle, ITALIANITÀ, which translates to “Italian-ness”, features more than twenty artists whose work showcases the complex nature of the Italian Diaspora, and celebrates the beliefs, traditions, and defining characteristics connected to this movement.

“This exhibition marks an important milestone for the IAMLA,” says Marianna Gatto, executive director-historian of the IAMLA and ITALIANITÀ’s curator, “never before has this group of artists been exhibited within the confines of a single exhibition or institution. While promoting discourse about the Italian diasporic mosaic, ITALIANITÀ creates common ground on which connections to contemporary migrations can be forged.”

Among the highlights of ITALIANITÀ is Joseph Stella’s monumental 1935 work “Smoke Stacks” that will be on view for the first time in California. Rare drawings by architect Paolo Soleri, the founder of the experimental Arizona town of Arcosanti, will be shown alongside the work of McCarthy-era blacklisted artist Ralph Fasanella and with that of Italo Scanga, best known for his Potato Famine series, and centenarian painter Margaret Ricciardi. Other works exhibited will include an illuminated, life-size, mixed media sculpture by American-born Cynthia Minet, who was raised in Rome, Rico LeBrun, a leading figure in California’s modernist movement, and Joe Mugnaini, Ray Bradbury’s long-time illustrator.

The exhibition, part of a series of celebrations in honor of the 110th anniversary of the Italian Hall, is made possible by the support of Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery, Leno and Paul Sislin, Umina Brothers and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

The museum, located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles at 644 N. Main St., Los Angeles, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Photos Courtesy of Taso Papadakis.

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