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Nino Caruso  
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Nino Caruso was born on April 19, 1928, in Tripoli, where his parents had immigrated from Comiso, Sicily, in search of work. It was here that Caruso spent his childhood, during which he frequently visited the city's the summer of 1940, while on holiday on Italy's Adriatic coast, he was prevented from returning to Libya by the events of World War II and was forced to remain in Italy. This period in history was particularly difficult for southern Italy and the country as a whole: During his seven years in Italy, Caruso studied at a commercial-technical institute in Ferrara and the Professional Institute of Industry in Vittoria, a city near Comiso, where he had been reunited with his mother in 1942. "My adolescence in Comiso had an important influence on my personal growth. I experienced that unique period in history (with the hardships of the war, the disembarkation of the Allied Forces, the political parties and assemblies, the farmers' struggle for land, the lectures, the disputes), through dialectics with the comrades whom I met during those years"1.

At the age of 16, financial problems forced Caruso to abandon his studies and he found a job at a local oil mill. He returned to Tripoli in 1947 and for four years worked as a mechanical turner in the automobile industry. At the time, the city was in completein the difficult political situation there, joining . Having been deported from Libya because of his political activity, Caruso returned to Italy. In late 1951 he was hired by his friend, the ceramicist Salvatore Meli (b. Comiso, 1929), to work as an assistant in Meli's studio at Villa Massimo in Rome, where he soon began to develop an active interest in ceramics. While doing military service in Casale Monferrato, he made up for his lack of technical training by frequenting the majolica factory of the Scuola Italiana Ceramiche. He earned a diploma in ceramics from the State Art Institute of Roma in 1954, and in 1954-1955 he opened a small studio in Rome, at no. 57 Via Ruggero Fauro, where he created and sold his works. Wanting to exalt the expressive potential of ceramics (and refusing to be discouraged by his pressing financial difficulties), he continued to work with passion and conviction, both studying traditional techniques and experimenting with various materials and processes.

In 1956 Caruso had his first solo exhibition, which was presented by his friend Renato Guttuso at the Galleria dell'Incontro. Following this were a number of major contemporary ceramics exhibitions, such as The National Ceramics Competition of Faenza and the Ceramics Biennial in Gubbio in 1960, where he was the co-receiver of a distinguished award. In the same year, at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art, he was awarded the Young Artist Price, created by the Ministry of Education for young artists. Another important recognition included a Gold Medal at the third edition of the International Ceramics Exhibition held in Prague in 1962 and sponsored by UNESCO.

In the early 1960s, while continuing his work with ceramics, Caruso began to develop an interest in other materials, such as wood, and particularly metals, and his sculptures in iron were exhibited at the first and second editions of the Metals Biennial in Gubbio in 1961 and 1963. However, the artist's greatest achievement in this period was the creation of the "Monument to the Resistance" in Pesaro in 1964, which earned him the "In/arch" Prize created by Bruno Zevi's journal "L'Architettura. Cronache e Storia". In the same year, Caruso became a member of the World Crafts Council, which had been founded to promote international fellowship in crafts, the training of craftspeople, and increased public interest in this area. With similar objectives in mind, he became involved with CIPA (the Italian Centre for Art Production), whose goal was to promote "a new class of artisans who have found an equilibrium in the new industrial society and can actively integrate themselves into modern culture"2. Caruso, together with such renowned figures as the architect Giò Ponti (Milan, 1897-1979), who was nominated as Honorary President, was extremely committed to the successful realisation of CIPA's initiatives to improve the craft quality and to make this sector thrive again.

Once the difficult early years as an artist were over, Caruso, encouraged by extensive critical recognition, emerged from the isolation that had been imposed on him by persevering work and financial difficulties. Wanting to expand his knowledge of ceramics, he visited some of the world's most important centres of ceramics production, exposing himself to the works of other contemporary artists. In the mid-1970s he founded the International Ceramics Centre in the ancient monastery of the Confraternity of Pio Sodalizio dei Piceni (where he had moved his studio some time earlier), with the goal of creating a suitable environment for stimulating the study of ceramics for artists from both Italy and abroad. In the late 1970s, Caruso developed an affinity with artistic trends that were in sharp contrast to Abstract Art, through renewed focus on the structure of the form, in line with the visual phenomena of kinetic perception. He began to explore the creative potential of repetition through the creation of forms made by slip casting clay into blocks of polystyrene (a previously unexplored material in ceramics). Using this technique, he produced modular elements of varying sizes and shapes, which he combined to create dividing walls, wall coverings, and decorative objects, consistently focussing on the relationship between ceramics and architecture. During this time, he also collaborated as a designer with some of the major producers of ceramic objects. Caruso's interest in creating spaces to be experienced by the viewer and in exploring new formal solutions is exemplified in the Evangelical Church in Savona, designed by the architects Aymonino and De Rossi, who commissioned Caruso to create the church's interior surfaces (Continuous Bas-relief, 1968).

Caruso further developed his already vast knowledge of ceramics during prolonged stays in Japan, where he learned ancient techniques still used in the East, and through his exposure to innovative contemporary ceramicists, particularly, American artists such as Betty Woodman, Peter Voulkos and Bob Sperry. In 1970, he began teaching at the State Art Institute of Roma, where he was the Chair of Ceramics Design, and during this period held numerous seminars and workshops worldwide, mainly in the United States yet also in Japan and many European countries. In this way Caruso was able to both share his experience and expand his knowledge in this field. It was these experiences that led Caruso to the realisation that little importance was being given to contemporary ceramics in Italy: not only did exhibitions provide insufficient space to ceramics artists, but contemporary ceramics was not the subject of adequate historical, critical, or theoretical treatment, in contrast to the vast amount of literature on ancient ceramics.

In 1979, wanting to share the experience he had acquired over the years, Caruso wrote a ceramics manual (Ceramica Viva, published by Hoepli, Milan), followed by the publications Ceramica Raku (Raku Ceramics) (1982), Decorazione Ceramica (Ceramic Decoration) (1984), and Dizionario illustrato dei materiali e delle tecniche ceramiche (The Illustrated Dictionary of Ceramics Materials and Techniques) (2006) (all published by Hoepli). In 1982, he was invited by the Department of Education to develop a ten-episode television program entitled "L'arte della ceramica" (The Art of Ceramics), created by the broadcast station RAI.

In the sculptures of this period, Caruso was inspired by ancient civilisations, appropriating such motifs as steles, columns, portals, shields, and sarcophagi (presented at the exhibition "Homage to the Etruscans" in Orvieto in 1985).
He also experimented with ancient techniques such as bucchero and terra sigillata, rendering them contemporary through the use of innovative procedures such as slip casting and the creation of "forms with a variety of sharp angles, harmonious colours, and distinctive undulating shapes, instilled with verve and playful humour"3. In 1991, Caruso held a retrospective exhibition entitled "Itineraries" at the suggestive fortress Rocca Paolina in Perugia, displaying the works in a succession of spaces. In the late 1990s, he moved away from slip casting and went back to modelling clay, creating unusual forms with previously unused colours, whose suggestive nuances were made possible by his skilful control of firing. These works include "Oneiric Memories" (Torgiano 2002), which consist of emblematic human faces and mysterious architectonic structures which the artist created drawing from his imagination, incomplete memories, and dreams.

In recent years, Caruso has returned to creating wall panels integrated with architecture and enigmatic sculptures recalling ancient Mediterranean civilisations. Caruso continues to hold seminars and workshops at universities in the United States, Europe, and Japan. His sculptures, in addition to being in museums and included in private and public collections, are also part of the urban landscape of various cities, such as Paris (Galèrie Les Champs, 1968), Shigaraki (Il vento e le stelle, 1991), Brufa (Portale Mediterraneo, 1994), Torgiano (Fonte di Giano, 1996, Fonte delle vaselle, 2002), and Coimbra (Rotunda, 2002). He has organised a number of contemporary ceramics events including: Ceramic Art Exhibition (1994, 1996, 1998), Cottaterra (1998), and Vaselle d'Autore, an exhibition that since 1995 has been held every year in the City of Torgiano, which in 2004 made Caruso an honorary citizen. Having recently completed his term as Artistic Director of the Accademia di Belle Arti "Pietro Vannucci" in Perugia, the artist continues to work at his studios in Todi and Rome.