6 February – 28 March 2024

Franca Maranò

6 February – 28 March 2024

“The theme of my work refers to my state as a mature woman who pierces the canvas with a distinctly feminine tool, going back to the past, to its expectations, disappointments, happy moments, and thoughts that unfortunately come to mind.”

Franca Maranò

Gracis Gallery, in collaboration with Richard Saltoun Gallery (Rome-London), is pleased to present the solo exhibition of Franca Maranò (Bari, 1920–2015), a key figure in the post-war Southern Italian art scene and a pioneer of feminist avant-garde.

On display, are approximately 30 works that trace the artistic journey of the artist from Bari. From her early years, where she combined organic and non-figurative formal motifs, Maranò evolved her practice in the 1970s and started to to work with raw cotton and linen canvases. Her body of work is unique and includes painting, fabric, and ceramics. In fact, Maranò was one of the few female artists who delved into the medium of ceramics during an era dominated by “great” male artists: Fausto Melotti, Lucio Fontana, Michele Fabbricatore, and Fausto Salvi.

Franca Maranò was born in Bari in 1920. Southern Italy was still steeped in patriarchal culture, so it was even more challenging for women to emerge compared to other regions of Italy. A context of marginalization that strongly influenced the artist’s work, as even in her most abstract production, she retained the memory of the ancient and mysterious formal suggestions of her homeland, even on her most abstract production. The common thread in Maranò’s works seems to be the urgency to narrate her personal experiences, which become the inspiration for a gender reflection on the role of women.

Franca Maranò approached art after her high school studies by attending the studio of the painter Enedina Zambrini Pitti, one of the students of Giovanni Fattori. The works from this early period are technically impeccable but still far from the assimilation of her own language.

In the early 1960s, Maranò became fascinated by informal research that polarized the international art scene. This translated into small-size works with geometric figures converging on the canvas in a chromatic range of whites, grays, and browns. These calligraphic signs were then transposed into ceramics, a natural evolution from two-dimensional work on canvas, with dark and earthy tones rich in cultural references to a magical-primitive and archaic symbolism. The earth as the origin of nature and all creation became the inspiration for the artist’s preferred palette in a progressive abstraction of reality.

In the mid-1970s, Franca Maranò’s artistic research led to a material meditation on fabrics, an operation that the artist defines as “a precise mental choice”. The work with needle and thread, a typically feminine practice, considered obsolete at the time due to the progress of industrial manufacturing, became a widespread practice among female artists of those years. It was seen as a slow action, opposed to the frenzy of the modern world, and intimately connected to the concept of “care”, associated with the figure of the woman.

As she recounts, in the 1970s, the feminist movement led her to express herself outside the “culture of privilege,” without connections to established codes and traditional pictorial means, in search of creative freedom aimed at recovering lost meanings. Maranò also became a supporter of the work of female artists, exhibiting them at Centrosei, one of the first contemporary art galleries in Southern Italy, founded in 1970 by six artists (Umberto Baldassarre, Mimmo Conenna, Sergio Da Molin, Franca Maranò, Michele Depalma, Vitantonio Russo). Initially established as a Cultural Association, it played a fundamental role in supporting and spreading avant-garde trends in the visual arts of Southern Italy. The exhibited artists included some of the most outspoken and committed protagonists of the Italian scene, such as Tomaso Binga, Maria Lai, Elisa Montessori, Mirella Bentivoglio, and Renata Boero.

From 1975, Maranò strated to work on Abiti Mentali [Mental dresses],a series of stitched canvas transformed into a performative project, exhibited for the first time at Centrosei Gallery in Bari in March 1977. These were wearable works made of medieval canvas, a blend of linen and hemp, pushing the continuous exploration of the Bari artist further. Hung on the wall like banners, these works needed to be worn to be activated. They were garments to be worn and used as tools for meditation, expressions of a secular mysticism that concealed a repressed and tamed body for centuries, as if to denounce its social marginalization. The theme of the female body is still sadly and tragically relevant today. Abiti Mentali also embodies an attempt to reconnect artistic activity with the external world, which is thus incorporated into the artwork. Stripping away one’s public attire, with all that it entails, to be reborn in art, symbolized by the habit: a pure garment representing a tabula rasa of Franciscan memory.

Franca Maranò’s work has been exhibited in important shows in Italy and abroad, including the Women’s International Art Club (WIAC), London (1965); MIC International Museum of Ceramics, Faenza; Expo Arte, Bari (1976, 1977, 1989); K18-Stoffwechsel, Kassel (1981), and several editions of Art Basel in Basel (from 1981 to 1985) with Centrosei.

Franca Maranò

Opening: Tuesday, February 6, from 6:00 PM


Galleria Gracis opening hours:

Monday-Friday, 10AM-1PM | 2-6 PM

Saturday by appointment

Free entrance

T +39 02 877 807;