Louis Monza


Monza was a self-taught artist whose paintings, drawings, sculptures, and linoleum block prints express belief in the common man, distrust of political leaders, and wondermentat the beauty of nature. Born in Turate, Italy, he was apprenticed at the age of seven to a woodcarver who made traditional religious figures and church furniture. In1913, he immigrated alone to the United States. He worked on the railroads and traveled throughout the United States and to Mexico, where he lived between 1915and 1917. The populism and artistic flowering of the Mexican revolutionary period made a lasting impact on Monza’s thought and art. Service in the United StatesArmy between 1917 and 1919 left Monza a confirmed pacifist.In 1919, Monza returned to New York and worked as a housepainter until 1938, when he fell from a scaffold and suffered serious injury. While recuperating,Monza listened with apprehension to the news of the events of World War II on the radio and produced a series of paintings that earned him one-person shows at theArtists’ Gallery in New York in 1941 and 1943. A monumental modernist work, The Comic Tragedy, portrays the futility of war and the plight of common peopleduring wartime. Amid symbols of classical and imperial Rome, tin soldiers resembling clowns do the bidding of leaders unconcerned with the plight of working people.A severed head, displayed in a public square, predicts the fall of the Italian leader, Mussolini. Other early works on the theme of war include depictions of Pearl Harbor and the fall of Paris.In 1946, Monza moved with his wife Heidi to Redondo Beach, California. Heidi Monza supported her husband, allowing him to pursue a full-time artistic career. InCalifornia, Monza began to use a brighter palette. While some of Monza’s landscapes depict monstrous creatures, or an animistic terrain where hillsides take thecontours of human faces, others depict paradisiacal harmony. In 1969, a high school art teacher introduced Monza to printmaking. Monza’s prints, which allowed himto exploit the carving techniques he had learned as a child, include lyrical renderings of nature, angry condemnations of industrialists and governments that despoil nature, and elusive dreamlike works. His phantasmagoric late drawings echothe themes of the prints. During this period, Monza also tried his hand at terracotta and bronze sculptures. Few self-taught artists rival Monza’s virtuosity in terms of varieties of media or career length.