Maria Lai — Italian Contemporary Art

Milena Olesinks
2 min readMay 24, 2021

Maria Lai (Ulassai, 1919 — Cardedu, 2013) was one of the most singular voices in Italian art from World War II on. Her special talent for drawing led her in 1939 to enrol in the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, the only woman in those years to study sculpture under Arturo Martini. In the fifties, she moved to Rome, where she was able to observe various contemporary artistic developments, first through contacts with Art Informel and then, in the next decade, with the emergence of Arte Povera and Conceptual Art. From these movements, she derived an interest in materials, both organic and those related to pre-industrial civilization, and in the gesture as a process, filtering these interests through an absolutely individual sensibility. From this period the relationship with the traditions of her land became central to her work, in a conceptual outlook with an anthropological matrix. Together with drawing, her output was enriched with subjects and materials close to an ancient, popular culture as in the case of her sculptures of bread, in itself a plain and perishable product, closely associated with everyday life and women’s work.

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