Bertozzi & Casoni was founded in 1980 in Imola, Italy, by Giampaolo Bertozzi (born in Borgo Tossignano, Bologna, in 1957) and Stefano Dal Monte Casoni (born in Lugo di Romagna, Ravenna, in 1961). After undertaking early studies at the Ceramic Art Institute of Faenza, the artists gravitated towards a dialogue with the great traditions of art and nurtured an original vocation to experiment with sculpture – seeing the possibilities of painted sculpture in ceramics.
The two went on to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. Around this time, they also began to participate in exhibitions that focused on their motivations for establishing a ‘new ceramics’. Taking part in these shows reflected an effort to foster support for their expressive medium, which at the time was viewed as a ‘minor art’ compared to other forms. Their first creations were small and made of thin, polychrome majolica.
From 1985 to 1989, Bertozzi & Casoni collaborated with Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola, including for a year as researchers in the Centro Sperimentazioni e Ricerche sulla Ceramica (1987–88). This experience led to their association with K International Ceramics Magazine, for which they created cover images. As their relationship with Cooperativa Ceramica neared its end, the artists produced two major works sponsored by the company: projects in Tama New Town, Tokyo (1989–90), and Ditelo con i fiori, a large panel on the exterior wall of Imola Hospital.
Between 1983 and 1994, the two engaged with the world of design thanks to a special relationship with exhibition space Dilmos in Milan. They also participated in several editions of the Abitare il Tempo trade fair in Verona and the Triennale di Milano, as well as exhibitions in the former Church of San Carpoforo in Milan.
During the 1990s, Bertozzi & Casoni’s work took a much more conceptual and radical turn, as if to compensate for the exaggerated expressiveness and rigid perfection in their usual execution that, nevertheless – at the end of the century, with Bosco sacro (1993), Evergreen (1995) and Scegli il Paradiso (1997) – had reached dimensional and creative heights not earlier achieved. With this later work, the two closed the chapter of painted majolica and moved into experimentations characterised by an almost exclusive use of materials and technologies derived from industry. This decisive step permitted their work to conquer a higher level of physical presence, as its pictorial virtuosities were abandoned in favour of an objective rendering of selected subjects. Their preferred iconographic themes, which found substance in the broad artistic genres of vanitas and memento mori, underwent a fantastic transfiguration: their formal reproduction took on an objective form that diminished the presence of the artists, themselves, and the conditioning perception of a particular time.
This important turning point in their practice led to a new chapter of ‘contemplations of the present’, in which a sort of ‘epic of trash’ – the attraction for what is fleeting, transitory, perishable and in decay – became internationally recognised as a human condition that is not just contemporary. They finally had begun to attract the interest of art critics, museums and major Italian and international art galleries.
Bertozzi & Casoni’s work was featured in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and 2011. Recent museum exhibitions in Italy include a survey at Castello Sforzesco and Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza (2008–09) and a solo show at Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali, Polignano a Mare (2011–12). In the Netherlands, Bertozzi & Casoni: Timeless was presented at Museum Beelden aan Zee in The Hague (2013).
Straddling compositional surrealism and formal hyperrealism, Bertozzi & Casoni have dedicated decades to examining the cultural and artistic refuse of contemporary society. Their work has been characterised by a never-ending, vivifying alternation between descents into decay and revivals of survivors; overlooked beauties, abstraction and representation; impermanence and eternity; history and contemporaneity; fantastic imagination and technical precision.