Obituary for Omar Calabrese


In memory of Omar Calabrese

On Saturday, March 31, 2012, Omar Calabrese succumbed to a heart attack in his home of Monteriggioni, Siena. Born in Florence on June 2, 1949, Calabrese has been a key-figure in semiotics and a protagonist of communication studies in Italy (President of Italian Association for Semiotic Studies – AISS in 1996-2000).

He began his academic career as a linguist, graduating at the University of Florence under the supervision of Giovanni Nencioni. Significantly, Calabrese’s thesis was on Carosello, one of the most famous programs of Italian TV, a choice that witnesses to an early interest in mass communication, which would subsequently find expression in a series of pioneering books (with Ugo Volli, Come si legge il telegiornale [“how to read TV journals”] (1979), with Patrizia Violi, Il giornale (1980) [“the newspaper”]), as well as in the project of a Rivista illustrata della Comunicazione [“illustrated journal of communication”], in research, together with Mario Wolf, for VQPT RAI (the research center of Italian public television), and afterwards in directly contributing to the foundation of University courses in Communication Sciences.

He particularly excelled in the field of semiotic studies and art theory, fruitfully cooperating with scholars such as Thomas Maldonado, Umberto Eco, Hubert Damish, Algirdas Julien Greimas, and Louis Marin. He taught first at the University of Bologna, then for twenty years in Siena, where he held the chair of Semiotics of the Arts and directed the Doctoral School in Studies on Visual Representation.

His indisputable qualities as theoretician and intellectual earned him several invitations by many international research centers, such as the EHESS, the Warburg Institute, and the Universities of Yale and Harvard.

In addition to these scientific and intellectual qualities, Calabrese succeeded in building around himself a fertile ground for the development and circulation of ideas, thus becoming an indispensable reference for many generations of researchers, whom he supervised with scientific rigor and friendliness. Lucia Corrain, Tarcisio Lancioni, Elisabetta Gigante, Massimo Leone, Angela Mengoni, Stefano Jacoviello, and Francesca Polacci were among his pupils, as well as the younger scholars Maria Cristina Addis, Massimiliano Coviello, Francesco Zucconi, and Luca Acquarelli.

Committed intellectual, with a sincere passion for the Left (he was among the founders of Ulivo [“the olive-tree” – the former Italian PM Romano Prodi’s political coalition]), Bologna city councilor, and city councilor for cultural affairs in Siena), he collaborated with all the main Italian newspapers and with numerous scientific journals, including Alfabeta, which he co-directed, Metafore, which he founded together with Michel Butor, and Carte Semiotiche, which he established.

Among his books, translated in several languages: Semiotica della pittura [“semiotics of painting”], Il Saggiatore, Milan, 1981; Il linguaggio dell’arte [“the language of art”], Bompiani, Milan, 1984 [an English abstract is in “Semiotic Aspects of Art History: Semiotics of the Fine Arts”, in Posner, Roland, Robering, Klaus, and Sebeok, Thomas A., eds, Semiotik – A Handbook of the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 2003, vol. 3, pp. 3212-3234]; La macchina della pittura [“the machine of painting”], Laterza, Bari, 1985; Piero teorico dell’arte [“Piero as Art Theoretician”], Gangemi, Rome, 1986; L’età neobarocca, Laterza, Bari, 1987 [English translation: Neo-Baroque: a Sign of the Times, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1992]; Caos e bellezza [“chaos and beauty”], Domus Academy, Milan, 1991; Mille di questi anni [“one thousand of these years”], Laterza, Bari, 1991; Breve storia della semiotica [“a short history of semiotics”], Feltrinelli, Milan, 2001; BizzarraMente [“the bizarre mind”, with Maurizio Bettini, Feltrinelli, Milan, 2002; L’Art de l’autoportrait, Citadelles&Mazenod, Paris, 2006 [English translation Artists’ Self-Portraits, Abbeville Press Publishers, New York, 2006]; Come si legge un’opera d’arte [“how to read a work of art”], Mondadori Università, Milan, 2007; L’art du trompe-l’oeil [“the art of trompe-l’oeil”], Citadelles&Mazenod, Paris, 2010 (which in the same year earned him the Bernier Prize of the French Academy for the best book of art).

In 2009, so as to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, his friends and colleagues dedicated a Festschrift to him: Testure. Scritti seriosi e schizzi scherzosi, Protagon, Siena, 2009.

More information and a press review on the website of the Italian Association for Semiotic Studies www.associazionesemiotica.it

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Samedi 31 Mars, Omar Calabrese est décédé d’une crise cardiaque, à son
domicile de Monteriggioni, près de Sienne.

Né à Florence le 2 Juin 1949, il a été un personnage-clé des études
sémiotiques.

Il a débuté ses études en tant que linguiste et obtenu son diplôme à
l’Université de Florence sous la direction de Giovanni Nencioni. Il a
ensuite choisi de se spécialiser dans les études sémiotiques et la
théorie de l’art, en élisant des figures universitaires de référence
avec lesquelles il a collaboré de manière fructueuse et entretenu des
relations amicales : Thomas Maldonado, Umberto Eco, Hubert Damish,
Algirdas Julien Greimas, Louis Marin.

Il a d’abord enseigné à l’Université de Bologne puis à Sienne, où il a
occupé la chaire de Sémiotique des Arts et dirigé l’École doctorale en
Études sur la Représentation Visuelle.

Ses qualités indiscutables de théoricien et d’intellectuel lui ont valu
plusieurs invitations auprès de nombreux centres de recherche
internationale comme l’EHESS, le Warburg Institute, les universités de
Yale et de Harvard.

Au-delà de ses qualités scientifiques et intellectuelles, Omar Calabrese
a réussi à construire autour de lui un terrain fertile pour le
développement et la circulation des idées, en devenant une référence
indispensable à plusieurs générations de chercheurs, qu’il a suivies
avec rigueur scientifique et chaleur humaine. On compte parmi eux Lucia
Corrain, Tarcisio Lancioni, Elisabetta Gigante, Massimo Leone, Angela
Mengoni, Stefano Jacoviello, Francesca Polacci, et ses élèves les plus
jeunes Maria Cristina Addis, Massimiliano Coviello, Francesco Zucconi,
Luca Acquarelli.

Intellectuel engagé, avec une passion sincère “de gauche”, il a
collaboré avec les principaux journaux italiens et de nombreuses revues
scientifiques : on rappelle, entre autres, /Alphabeta/, dont il était
co-directeur, /Metafore/, qu’il a fondé avec Michel Butor, /Carte
Semiotiche/, dont il était le fondateur.

Parmi ses œuvres, traduites dans nombreuses langues, on compte :

/Semiotica della pittura/, Il Saggiatore, Milano, 1981

/Il linguaggio dell’arte/, Bompiani, Milano, 1984

/La macchina della pittura/, Laterza, Bari, 1985

/Piero teorico dell’arte/, Gangemi, Roma, 1986

/L’età neobarocca/, Laterza, Bari, 1987

/Caos e bellezza/, Domus Academy
<http://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Domus_Academy&action=edit&redlink=1>,
Milano, 1991

/Mille di questi anni/, Laterza, Bari, 1991

/Breve storia della semiotica/, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2001

– Bizzarramente – con Maurizio Bettini -, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2002

/L’art de l’autoportrait/, Citadelles&Mazenod, Paris 2006

/Come si legge un’opera d’arte/, Mondadori Università, Milano 2007

/L’art du trompe-l’oeil/, Citadelles&Mazenod, Paris 2010; edizione
italiana, /L’arte del trompe-l’oeil/, Jaca Book, Milano 2011 (pour
lequel il a gagné en 2010 le Prix Bernier ´de l’Académie Française
récompensant le meilleur livre d’art).

Il y a trois ans, ses amis et élèves lui ont dédié une œuvre à
l’occasion de son soixantième anniversaire : /Testure/, Protagon, Siena
2009.

 

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