Michele Depalma was born in Bari (Rutigliano 1928).His father, Vito, wished that Michele attended economics or engineering. But the guy shows since he was child unique inclinations for painting and it will be a problem for his father. Already in elementary school he traces with chalks some drawings on the paved road outside her home.
From sixth grade, Michele is sent to the national boarding school in Bari, Domenico Cirillo. From there, every morning the boarders were brought to attend classes at the school in the former convent of San Domenico, and then in the years of Second Level College of Science, at the Scacchi.
In this context of strict exclusion (that much influenced on formation of a shyly surly and proudly withdrawn behavior) Michele confirmed his solitary love for painting. He invested the five silver pounds, every week his father gave him, as a prize for his studies in the purchase of materials for paint. He provided publications or postcards of works of art, which copied. Holiday time he painted in the ceiling in Rutigliano.
After completing their high school, Michele dramatically imposed his father his choice: “Or I go to the Academy of Naples or I’ll be a tramp!” So Vito Depalma resigns and allows Michael to be privately prepared to the entrance examinations at the Academy of Naples, which he will pass with good marks, with thirty.
In 1949, the young Michael lives the impact with a city devastated by the trauma of war and post-war period. From the distinguished boarding school of Bari he adapts to dwell in the heart of Spaccanapoli, between alleys populated by smugglers and prostitutes. He will live there for many years, until the completion of studies by the Academy and beyond.
The formation of Depalma is strongly marked in Naples by the relationship with his professor of painting, Emilio Notte. The artist “from Puglia by chance” (he was born in Ceglie Messapica, province of Brindisi, in 1891 by parents of Veneto) presided over the Neapolitan Academy from 1929. He had arrived there after gaining fame as a leading Futurist painter.
Between 1950 and 1951, the second year of the Academy, Emilio Notte insists because his pupil moved to Milan at the Brera Academy. Michele leaves convincing but his stay in Milan lasts just two months. He returned to Naples and he completes his studies in 1953. The brief interlude in Milan brought him to meet Carlo Carrà and to know other artists who taught in Brera as Marino Marini, Carpi, Funi.
Artistically Michele Depalma established oneself from an early age. Besides editions of the national exhibition of fine arts Academies and of the exposure of the bicentennial of Naples, still as a student, Depalma attended the III National Painting Award of the Golfo of Spezia of ’51 and the II painting exhibition of the May ’52 in Bari . In ‘ 53 he exhibited at the third edition of the national Exhibition of the Academies of Milan and at the Exhibition of sacred art of the Academy of Naples. In the same year he also held his first solo exhibition in Rome at the Academy of San Luca. It is here that began an intense activity of exhibitions that grew increasingly during the 1950s. In those years, he was present at most of the awards (in particular those in La Spezia, in Francavilla, in Bari and in Villa San Giovanni) and above all at the Venice Biennial in the ’56, where he exhibited Black lamp, Green cup and Adele, and the Rome Quadrennial of ’59, where he presented Figure, Landscape of Puglia, Grey of Puglia.
At the same time, he also began his work as a teacher, and the academic ’53-’54, for two years, he was an assistant professor for the chair of Ornate designed and immediately after, that of painting held by Notte. A task he held until 1961, when he passed to the role.
Student first and then assistant, both of Brancaccio and above all of the Notte, Michele Depalma had been formed in this context, therefore, and he also found himself having to choose between the various lines of research marked by his classmates as well as by the older and younger masters.
A distinction that opens interesting glimpses on the cultural labor of the time in the Neapolitan. One can see the different aesthetic positions that coexisted in the Academy of Naples: the line of structuring of post-cubist Emilio Notte, the cautious reformism of the post-impressionist Ciardo, the solid of the Neapolitan baroque Giovanni Brancaccio. Notte’s students on the other hand, while making the honors of war to the elderly and authoritative teacher, did not hesitate to put into practice its exhortation “to dig” critically new and different paths from his.
Depalma continued to develop his own personal path, far from the Neapolitan new avant-garde movements that marked the fifties with subsequent seizures.
But the real breakthrough came in 1959, when Depalma participated in a large show of “Young Italian painters.”
The artist saw in the Gallery of the Academy of Naples a solo exhibition of Vincenzo Ciardo which proposed a dense texture and rhythm of short pieces of colored neodivisionist.
The result was vibrating visions of the Salento countryside extolling the melancholy rhythm of the muricce, the stones moved away from the red ground , of the branches of olive trees in halos of sunset or the moon.
He was struck by reviewing the Apulia he had left. The impact of innovation on painting of Ciardo of our artist appeared immediately in two landscapes exposed at the Rome Quadrennial, in the same 1959.
The sentimental pointillism of Ciardo, her personal “color revolution” in terms of perceptual decomposition of the landscape of Salento, they finally brought the young man Depalma on the streets of abstraction understood as trans-figuration of the real. That is “the form in the making”, the Gestaltung theorized by Paul Klee at the Bauhaus in the lessons.
The landscape he painted in Summer vaguely alludes to the high coastal near Mola. In fact, the artist began to attend more regularly the area south of Bari when he returned in Rutigliano. With the first salary he bought a scooter, down to Adriatic fitted of folder with chalks, as if to revive the practice of the en plein air.
An important stage of this new itinerary is the solo exhibition of 1965 in Bari in the gallery “The varnish” open in the Diana Palace of the Massari’ square by the artists who taught in the Public School of Art.
Michele knew he had a shot at his career of painter came from the province. But even reaching towards the 40 years, a point of equilibrium between art and life.
In 1967 he gets the transfer from the Academy to become a teacher of painting in the art school of Bari and finally decided to leave Naples to return to Rutigliano.
In 1968, in early March, he held a solo exhibition in Monopoli in the Gallery “La Campanella”, through Luigi Russo, the Senator-painter-patron of the South of Bari and his great admirer. The importance of the exhibition of Monopoli is that, among the people at the inauguration in the Gallery there was the granddaughter of the Russian Senator, Lucia Saponara, who became his wife on December 6, 1969.
The full immersion of Michele Depalma in Bari environment was quickly confirmed by the solo exhibition which he held before marrying in October 1969, in the Gallery of the artistic club “Michelangelo”( directed by Cesare Marino) that he opened a cycle of exhibitions in the new larger headquarters in Andrea da Bari street. It was one of the symptoms of the fervor that animated a city that still felt in rising, unmindful of signals of the delayed ’68 meandering among young people.
Substantial changes in its itinerary in his second solo exhibition at the “Advantage” of Rome, December 1970, which included a large repertoire of works of the Sixties.
Pungent shapes cutouts emerged “from a clot of memory (just a balcony, a clump of Palm trees, a terrace, an interior of Puglia bit of sea)”. A qualified as “transparency color light modulated on a surface that refracted”.
How to see things through crystal prisms or mirrors cuts.
An important linguistic change is the new cultural context in which Depalma is to act in Bari: the climate that leads him in October 1970 to be part of the founding group of artists of the Centrosei, a cultural association with a Gallery under the Petruzzelli theatre. They were Umberto Baldassarre, Mimmo Conenna, Sergio Da Molin, Michele Depalma, Franca Maranò, Vitantonio Russo.
They wanted to offer – reading in the articles of incorporation – “the warmest and significant evidences of art and culture which characterize our times” and presenting “artists from Puglia more open to the problems of new visual languages”.
The birth of Centrosei marked the culmination of unrest that had resulted in a proliferation of galleries in the ’60s to the renewal by several young artists after the 1966 Biennial of Bari.
He promoted close itineraries between pop, conceptual, of performance, poor “new situations” while several public and private events between 1969 and 1971 brought to the town the current upheavals in the international art.
However, soon after the establishment of the group, appeared clear the diversification among the six.
The untimely death of Umberto Baldassarre and artistic differences led to the dissolution of the group that Depalma left in 1973. The Centrosei was the only and brief group experience in the itinerary of solitary introversion of our character.
Meanwhile Depalma was given the Chair of Painting at the Academy of fine arts of Bari established in 1971, under the direction of Roberto De Robertis.
He taught several generations of students until 1994.
In 2002 the Bishop Padovano wanted him as Artistic Director of the Diocesan Museum of Monopoli.
The texts are taken from the catalog of the exhibition The maze of painting. Michele Depalma. Works 1950-2013, (Bari, Provincial Art Gallery “Corrado Giaquinto,” November 16, 2013 – March 30, 2014) by Clara Gelao, edited by Mario Adda Editore, Bari © Copyright 2013.