Gruppo XX and Mathelda Balatresi, Rosa Panaro

Gruppo XX, Ciò che attrae l’uomo, 1977. Courtesy Mathelda Balatresi, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Gruppo XX, Ciò che attrae l’uomo, 1977. Courtesy Mathelda Balatresi, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

In April 1977, at an exhibition held at Galleria Lucio Amelio, Gruppo XX (whose name refers to the female chromosomes) presented with a sense of urgency the discriminatory condition of women in contemporary society, through performative acts and debates aimed at underscoring the marginalizing and guilty actions of the male cultural model in the West. This group, which includes Rosa Panaro (sculptor), Mathelda Balatresi (painter), Antonietta Casiello (philosophy professor) and Mimma Sardella (an officer of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage), brings together both an artistic soul and a more theoretical one, whose purpose is to denounce the “issue” of the woman in a lucidly provocative key that is at the same time an arrogantly ironic one: the feminist group, welcomed ahead of its time by the versatile sensitivity of Amelio, proclaims in the sarcastic and mocking title of the exhibition poster (La donna ha la testa troppo piccola per l’intelletto ma sufficiente per l’amore…) the falsehood of the reiterated commonplaces that nullify the man-woman relationship, and thus the danger of a cultural, professional and affective model built upon tendentious presuppositions.

The two artists and the two intellectuals form the group Gruppo XX, also driven by the yearning to come to terms as one against the humiliation they had been subjected to during their trip to Venice to visit the Biennale. Their intention is to use an alternative cultural expression to overturn the subordinate role assigned to women by the dominant male chauvinism. In their own words: “Our group is born from an objective situation, that is, it comes together so that it can take a real journey, and from a situation that lies farther back and is more significant, i.e. that of being ‘women’ who are conscious of their familiar and social roles, and aware of experiencing a crisis that invests society as a whole, calling into question the terms, which have hitherto been unstable and incontrovertible, in which each one of us, or rather each woman, experiences her relationships with others and with the institutions. The journey we took together to Venice to visit the Biennale meant delving further into our specific meaning, and into our strictly professional role; it meant triggering observations that once again concern women’s issues, but this time in terms of how a woman experiences her profession and how she deals with her work, how she is welcomed by the male organization of ‘material’ production (which means ‘cultural’).”

The show, in which what prevails is the experience of the trip (Venezia è tutta allagata, “Venice Is All Flooded”), debate and performance (L’emarginazione, “The Marginalisation”), is metrically composed through the graphic sign of the pastels Ciò che attrae l’uomo (“What Attracts Men”), Suffragetta 1911 (“Suffragette 1911”), Vita di una donna dalla nascita alla morte (“A Woman’s Life From Birth to Death”) by Mathelda Balatresi (Carcare, 1937) and by the objectual inventive expressed in Le palle quadrate (“The Square Balls”) by Rosa Panaro (Casal di Principe, 1935), works which have joined the museum’s permanent collection.