School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Research Publications

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    Abstract art and Fascism in Como
    White, Anthony ( 2003)
    During the 20th century abstract art was often connected with radical politics, most famously in the work of the Russian Constructivists. Although few would argue today that there is an inherent connection between abstract art and left-wing opposition, there is little awareness of how abstract art could be complicit with fascism, as happened during the 1930s in Italy. This lack of awareness can be partly credited to the role that Italian artists and historians have played in suppressing this complicity by publishing altered documents in exhibition catalogues. ‘Abstract Art and Fascism in Como’ will focus on a series of murals produced by Mario Radice (1898 – 1987) for Como’s Fascist Headquarters in 1936. A discussion of the role played by these murals in the propagandistic function of the building will give rise to a number of historiographical questions: Given the complicity of abstraction and fascism in this instance, as opposed to the more common association between abstract art and left-wing politics, should we assume that abstraction is politically neutral, an empty vessel for the inscription of ideology? Although there is an ethical obligation not to distort the historical record, are historians always obliged to read such works through a political lens? Or are there conditions under which such works might be understood to transcend their immediate political context?