Edoardo Villa (1915-2011) is often called Johannesburg’s ‘unofficial official’ sculptor. Anecdotally, he has contributed the most public sculptures of any single artist in the city where he spent the majority of his life, and certainly the most without a dedicated city museum to house them. His long career began in earnest after he opted to remain in South Africa after the Second World War, following his internment here as an Italian prisoner of war.
His sculptural output was marked by his ability to shift materials and registers in his work, ranging from sinuous and sensual bronzes to angular and confrontational works in steel. Much of his output was driven by his wish to develop a style that combined his training in the techniques and motifs of European modernist sculpture with his lifelong fascination with African spiritualism and iconography. From his involvement with the Amadlozi Group in the 1960s, Villa sought a syncretic and dynamic sculptural vocabulary, that took many different twists and iterations over the course of his long life. The two works on exhibition, separated by 20 years and very different in style, demonstrate this restless creative energy perfectly.