Aldo Calò was born in San Cesario di Lecce, Italy in 1910. He first studied art at the Lecce Art School and then attended the Institute of Art in Florence. Early influences included ancient art, Catholicism, and baroque architecture and decorations. By the late 1940s, Calò had become interested in international art movements. He met sculptors Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Ossip Zadkine in Paris in 1950, and he worked briefly with Henry Moore in England in 1952. Calò was also influenced by the aesthetic principles of his contemporary, Italian sculptor Marino Marini (1901-1980). Calò became the director of the Institute of Art in Rome in 1959, where he was an influential teacher. Calò had many solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad, and group exhibitions took his work across Europe and to the United States, Asia, the Middle East, and New Zealand. His work entered major collections in Europe and the United States. Calò was awarded numerous prizes including the National Prize for Sculpture at the 1962 Venice Biennale, where he had first shown work in 1948. He died in Rome in 1983.
Calò developed a style characterized by a profound knowledge of materials and a sensitivity to form. His understanding of materials and how they could be combined unified the diverse formal elements in his pieces, particularly his “biform” works of the early ‘60s. The sculptor’s abstract work defied convention, centering on motifs of dualism, bi-dimensionality, and opposition; both Orizzontale and Tensione No. 2 demonstrate a dynamic, precarious equilibrium.
Orizzontale and Tensione No. 2 are both examples of the artist’s early mature period, and were among the first sculptures to be installed at Lynden. Mrs. Bradley purchased them in Rome in September, 1965 (along with Tensione, a smaller sculpture that became part of the Milwaukee Art Museum collection in 1977) and they arrived in Milwaukee in March of the following year. Both are unique casts. The use of horizontal appendages or extensions common to some of Calò’s work lends a skeletal quality to Orizzontale and Tensione No. 2.
Tensione No. 2 is among Calò’s experiments in lacerating closed forms; these broken forms expose the work’s internal temporality and create an opposition between positive and negative space. Calò pushed this interest further in subsequent works by investigating the concrete definition of space.
Tensione No. 2 (Tension No.2) consists of a vertical bronze form with two large faces pierced twice in the middle and appendages extending on either side. It is simultaneously rising up, as the elongated piercings emphasize the solid form’s verticality, and stretching horizontally, as the cylindrical slabs protruding from the sides seem to be pulling the sculpture in both directions. The tension created by these forces is palpable. The oppositions continue with a play between negative and positive space created by the sculpture’s two voids, or lacerations, and the spaces formed by the horizontal projections; the viewer is drawn back and forth between viewing the concrete mass and viewing the surrounding landscape framed by the negative space. Although the work is dated 1965 in the gallery invoice, it is signed “Calo ’62.”