Ivo Pannaggi was born in Macerata in 1901, but moved to Rome and Florence to attend the Faculty of Architecture. Once he finished his studies, he decided to join the Futurist movement, exhibiting, in his early twenties, at Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s Casa d’Arte. His artistic production varied from painting, sculpture, graphics and set design and he became one of the most interesting and active personalities in the intellectual milieu of the capital.
The artist also committed himself to stimulating the cultural life of his hometown by participating in the Futurist Exhibition at the Convitto Nazionale di Macerata in 1922 together with Balla, Depero and Prampolini, introducing an art that drastically breaks with the figurative tradition. The painter’s early works seem closer to Balla’s artistic pursuit, while later works recall more Boccioni stylistic features. From this early phase are the works Nude of a Woman – Sensation of 1921, My Mother Reads the Newspaper of 1919-22 and Running Train of 1922.
The Manifesto of Mechanical Art and the Praise of the Machine
In the years from 1922 to 1926 he focused instead on themes aimed at praising the mechanical and modern technology. In fact, in 1922 he signed with Vinicio Paladini the Manifesto of Mechanical Art first published in “Lacerba” and then in the magazine “Noi” in 1923, in a version reworked by Prampolini.
“Today it is the MACHINE that distinguishes our age. Flying pulleys, bolts and chimneys. […] This is where we feel irresistibly drawn. No longer nudes, landscapes, figures, symbolism however futuristic, but the wheezing of locomotives, the shrieking of sirens, cogs, pinions, and all that NET DECISIVE mechanical sense that is the atmosphere of our sensibility. […] We feel mechanically and we feel ourselves built of steel, we too machines, we too mechanized by the atmosphere.”
The text drafted by the two artists exalts the machine, which becomes the emblem of creative energy through which to accomplish the “futurist reconstruction of the universe” theorized by Balla and Boccioni.
Scenographic activity and constructivist evolution
His friendship with Paladini would also open him to Russian constructivist research that would influence his future evolution. In fact, in works such as Portrait of Vinicio Paladini of 1922, the painter goes beyond Boccioni’s pictorial decomposition and veers toward a synthetic research in both color and geometric and “mechanical” form. Compared to Paladini’s choice, which was immediately directed toward Soviet avant-garde art, Ivo Pannaggi mediates his position at first by developing a two-dimensional and late Cubist chromatic research in the wake of Prampolini.
The collaboration with Paladini also continued in the field of stage design; in fact, the two of them made the costumes for the Futurist Mechanical Ball staged at the Casa d’arte Bragaglia in Rome in 1922, and the constructivist imprint was very evident.
The artist would continue his theatrical activity throughout the 1920s, working at Bragaglia’s Teatro degli Indipendenti. Between 1923 and 1924 he devoted himself to the design of the scene for Guido Sommi Picenardi’s La torre rossa; in 1925 he was engaged in the creation of one of the sets for Jules Laforgue’s Pierrot futurista, and also in 1925 he worked on the execution of the scene for Marinetti’s Prigionieri di Baia. The most visible influence of Constructivism and the new forms coming from El Lissitzky can be seen in the latter work. Between 1926 and 1927 he worked on the set and costume design for L’angoscia delle macchine and Raun, both by Ruggero Vasari.
One of his most striking scenic inventions is the “Magic Lantern,” a device through which he manages to project shadows in dilated dimensions.
In 1926 he participated in the Venice Biennial exhibiting six works that no longer had anything to do with figurative art veering towards formal abstraction such as Architectural Function “H 03,” Architectural Function “3 U,” Architectural Function “P M,” The Builder, Plastic Derivation from Bottles, Glass, Environment, and Plastic Derivation from Guitar, Mug, Glasses.
The artistic synthesis between constructivism, futurism and abstractionism
Architecturally, in 1925, he carried out at Esanatoglia, in the province of Macerata, the renovation of some interior rooms of the house of Ero Zampini, owner of tanning industries and distilleries, creating one of the first examples of avant-garde interior architecture in Italy. The artist designs four rooms for the home: the antechamber, the dining room, the radio auditorium, and the bedroom. In the decoration he fuses and synthesizes various artistic researches moving from German Expressionism, Dutch Neoplasticism, Russian Constructivism and of course Italian Futurism.
Ivo Pannaggi in his career really experimented with so many techniques and artistic researches. In the 1920s he also worked as a caricaturist, interpreting the faces of various international avant-garde figures in what he calls “synthetic abstractions,” not losing sight of psychological rendering. He is also involved in typography and photography, using and interpreting this medium as a tool to expand the boundaries of vision. He also works with the technique of photomontage by making photocollages that show his direct knowledge of Dadaism.
His later years and the influence of the Bauhaus
Eager to further his research internationally, he left for Germany in 1927 and attended the Bauhaus in 1932. From this time on, the artist definitively broke off relations with Futurism. From this period are drawings depicting Kandinsky, Gropius and Mies Van der Roher. Some of his works are published in “Der Sturm” and “Der Futurismus,” and in 1938 they are exhibited at Columbia University in New York, or in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The artist travels extensively, going to Lapland, Venezuela, Brazil and coasting Africa, working as a photojournalist for a number of magazines. In the 1940s he settled in Norway, where he resumed painting and working as an architect and designer. In the 1970s he returned instead to Macerata, which had dedicated a major retrospective to him in 1963, and here he disappeared in 1981.
Emanuela Di Vivona