Pino Pascali died a tragic and premature death in Rome on the 11th of September 1968. He was probably the greatest Apulian artist, and he was definitely the most famous internationally throughout the 1900s. Pascali was only 33 years old when he passed away. He was born in Bari on the 19th October 1935 and his parents were both from Poligano a Mare. After his tragic death (he was run over by a car while riding his motorbike) his body was buried in the small graveyard of his hometown.
Pascali’s career as an artist was short and intense. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome in 1959 and soon started making a name for himself as a scenographer. He drew sketches, drawings and “short movies” for “Carosello” (an Italian television advertising reel) and other TV shows, as well as drawings and models of sailing ships, trains and armours. He loved to experiment.
In 1965 he held his first solo show in Rome, at the prestigious gallery “La Tartaruga”. In the space of only three years he had made a name for himself and had attracted the attention of several major Italian art critics (such as Vivaldi, Calvesi, Grandi, Rubiu, Boatto, Bucarelli, De Marchis) and leading gallery owners such as Sargentini, Sperone, Iolas (who exhibited his works in Paris in 1968). In the summer of 1968 he was invited to show his works at the 34th Venice Biennale where he was given his own personal room.
This was his initiation: after his death, and while the exhibition was still ongoing, he was awarded the International Prize for Sculpture. As a sculptor, scenographer and performer, Pascali beautifully combined primary and mythical forms of Mediterranean culture and nature (Mother Goddess and Venus, the Sea, the Land, the Fields, the agricultural tools and rituals) with childish representations of Play and Adventure (prehistorical animals, animals of the zoo and the sea, war toys, the world of Tarzan and the jungle, caterpillars and worms, costumes, Punchinello).
He translated the world of imagination into monumental forms and essential structures, concise, like the Apulian romanesque features and the medieval bestiary characteristics of its churches, which at the same time remind us of the symbols of spreading mass culture (comics, cinema, fashion). He makes his “fake sculptures” with fragile and ephemeral materials (canvas, wood, steel wool, acrylic hair, straw, raffia). By doing so he offers an original and critical response (Italian and southern) to new trends coming from the United States, such as Pop Art and Minimal Art. He anticipated the 1970s’ Arte Povera, Body Art, and conceptual art.