Mirella Bentivoglio (1922 - 2017) was an Italian artist, poet, art critic, art historian, and curator. Recognized internationally as one of the key figures in the Concrete and Visual Poetry movements in Italy, she explored the relationship between language and image through works on paper, installations, sculpture, and performance. In 2002, she was awarded the Silver Plate of the President of the Italian Republic in recognition of her long and successful career as an artist.
Bentivoglio’s work is marked by a critique, sometimes playful, sometimes somber, of the failures of Western societies—the obsession with material consumption, the pollution of the environment, the celebration of power over compassion, and the constant belittling and oppression of women. As a Concrete and Visual poet, her intent was not to create precious objects, but to discover a poetic dimension in the found object (for example, a photograph in a magazine, a worn 17th-century carving, a crushed soda can) or in the mundane materials of the commercial art world (letraset, plexiglas). She undertook a conceptual recycling by bringing together these objects and letters in new ways and calling attention to the intricate workings of language in creating meaning in our daily lives. Her approach to the language/image relationship was informed primarily by the medium of poetry rather than the techniques of the visual arts; she was a verse poet first, and her poetic sensibility is present throughout all of her visual work. Through this sensibility and a wry wit, she encourages us to re-think the icons of power that surround us, to become aware of the cultural assumptions embedded in languages and images and of the subversive potential of bringing the two together in new ways.