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, Calo 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.
Orizzontale (Horizontal) consists of eight curved slabs of bronze of different lengths stacked on a vertical axis. The irregular curves and the angles at which the slabs are placed in relation to each other create a series of intersections that change as one circles the sculpture. From some angles, the sculpture resembles the skeleton of a leaf; from others, a material balancing act. It plays with opposition and polarity by creating diverse shapes out of the positive and negative space, consequently providing different views of its background. The work was designed to rotate on its base but no longer does.