A few years ago, the Municipality of Cosenza, in Calabria, hosted Antonio Conte for a painting exhibition for a month. At his exhibition Antonio learned that the first Gay Pride Cosenza, that was suppose to have place that day, had been blocked by the Mayor of the city who had not given permission to demonstrate. Antonio invited all the Pride demonstrators at his exhibition. Only thirty people entered. However Antonio “gave space to rights”. At this point he made a very significant live performance: he made two paintings representing the episode. Two demonstrators of the pride offered themselves as models and Antonio painted ‘O Munaciello and ‘A Bella ‘Mbriana (see below).
‘O Munaciello is a Neapolitan spirit similar to a short monk. This character is known for one and a thousand legendary stories. ‘O Munaciello is aknown as a spiteful character. Clearly the denial of the permit, at the last moment, by the mayor of the city, was a little “spiteful”.
According to the Neapolitan tradition, ‘A Bella’ Mbriana is the spirit of the house, therefore she is hospitable. Although far from the traditional image that can be had of these subjects (I actually have never seen any image of ‘A Bella’ Mbriana), through his gesture Antonio “exorcised” the denial of the rights by proving to be human and hospitable. He has a strong sense of community that is not limited to the Neapolitan community but to the human one.
His works are impressions of a moment. Antonio communicates the impression of an intense moment that he expresses just as intensely, on the canvas and other supports, with bright colors like pink, blue, yellow. “This is the time of pinks” he says.
The cover magazine for Napulitanamente paper edition is a work by Antonio made with enamel and oil on coated paper. The title of the paint is “Viva l’Italia”. Wait, it’s not what it seems. The stars and stripes background do not represent America but capitalism (the colors of the American flag are common to some countries representing capitalism). The blindfolded woman clearly represents Italy. She is blindfolded and clearly subjected to capitalism. This is just what it looks.
In his works on social and political themes Antonio is often provocative and ironic.
In the work entitled “Nuovo Mondo” (see image below), inspired by the movie Golden Door directed by Emanuele Crialese, with drawing and crafts, Antonio transformed something violent and ugly in art.
Antonio Conte|Nuovo Mondo
He took the writing “first the Italians” from a propaganda flyer against immigrants and drew the statue of liberty that represents freedom. His concept wants to remind that Italians first have experienced the life as immigrants in the new world and we should all be more human first and then we should know our history before hunting out immigrants. It is well known that Neapolitans are among the most hospitable peoples of the Western world. We use to say “where two people eat they can also eat four people”. We are human and we are used to share. As in the case of “Nuovo Mondo” Antonio is often inspired by other forms of art and he is very productive. His paintings are very successful and he has exposed his works in many Italian cities. He is currently collaborating in painting works for the Italian television series I Bastardi di Pizzofalcone.
The strong impact of Antonio’s works is not only due the use of pop art colors but is two to the fact that he paints without prejudice because he is a popular artist. He feels and experiences the reality of daily life in Napoli, a life that is made of intense moments to experience and to color.
He probably won’t believe in it but surely Antonio is more Neapolitan than he thinks. In his provocation, in his irony, in his enthusiasm and in his humanity and in the ability to transform bad things to make them beautiful Antonio is a real Neapolitan artist. Meet him in person, watch the video below: