1930s European fascism was unkind to all but the most propagandist of artists, and Surrealists were especially targeted for their dissenting message. By 1940, nearly all major names in modern art had emigrated from Europe, and many re-centered in New York. Enrico Donati, an individualist even among the Surrealists, had come 6 years earlier, exploring and scouring the American southwest and Canada for available indigenous artifacts before settling in New York with his contemporaries. Like others of the movement, he depicted a distortion of reality that was more in keeping with the subconscious reaction to war and fascism than with the actual appearance of the world around him. His Surrealist period endured roughly eight years, and in the meantime he began to explore texture as a tool of expression.
Through the 1950s, Donati transitioned from distinct, distorted geometric and organic forms to an abstract subject matter that was more monumental and balanced, with a hint of something ancient, even timeless. It is likely that during his efforts collecting colorfully painted clay and stone objects of the Hopi, Zuni, Apache, and Eskimo tribes, the seed for his later, deeply textural, expressive painting had been planted. By the 1960s, he was mixing sand, dirt, and, notoriously, the collections of his vacuum cleaner, into his paint to create thick, stone-like texture into which he could scrape and carve to add lively, repetitious marks and variation of surface. His palette of bold, rich hues was an unwavering, expressive characteristic of his work that held from Surrealism to the most contemporary examples. Donati’s work is best viewed in person, allowing spatial understanding of his varied surfaces, and, ultimately, a wordless experience of the emotion with which he imbued his compositions.
2016 Masters Exhibit
(note: more works available)