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Enrico Prampolini was born in Modena, Italy, in 1894. He studied in Lucca and Turin, Italy, and briefly attended the Accademia di belle arti in Rome, studying under Duilio Cambellotti. In 1912 he joined the studio of Giacomo Balla and became a member of a Futurist art collective, through which he met the leaders of the movement, including Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Gino Severini. He exhibited with other Futurists at the Galleria Sprovieri in Rome in April and May of 1914 and, shortly afterward, in Prague. His early painting, influenced by Balla, was defined by sharp angles and a hard-edged geometricism that seemed to articulate the techno-anarchic ideas of F. T. Marinetti, who penned the founding manifesto of Futurism. In 1913 Prampolini himself wrote the manifesto "Cromofonia: Il colore dei suoni" ("Chromophony: The Colors of Sounds"), in which he adopted the main tenets of Vasily Kandinsky; he then critiqued those tenets in "Pittura Pura" ("Pure Painting") and "Un'arte nuova? Costruzione assoluta di moto-rumore" ("A New Art?: The Absolute Construction of Sound in Motion") in 1915. In a manifesto dedicated to theater, "Manifesto della scenografia futurista" ("Manifesto of Futurist Scenography"), Prampolini incorporated Balla's ideas about mechanical dynamism and the dematerialization of bodies through light into his own proposals for Futurist stage design. Fascinated with the possibility of using technical means to remove the boundary between observer and performance, Prampolini went so far as to suggest giving the moving, illuminated stage the primary role by replacing human actors with colored gas and explosive noises.
In subsequent years, Prampolini became a key link between Italian artists and the international avant-garde. He met the poet Tristan Tzara in Rome in 1916, and took part in the international Dadaist exhibition in Zurich the same year. His international networks continued to expand as he founded and wrote for a succession of publications, including Avanscoperta (1916), Noi (1917), and Sic (1919), and organized exhibitions featuring his own work along with that of other Futurists and international avant-garde artists, such as a 1918 show at the Galleria dell'epoca in Rome, with work by Prampolini, Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, and Ardengo Soffici. After extensive travel abroad in the early 1920s and an ongoing exchange of ideas with artists including Alexander Archipenko, Jean Arp, Marc Chagall, Albert Gleizes, and Vasily Kandinsky, Prampolini moved to Paris. He lived there from 1925 through 1937, associating with members of various artists' groups, including Der Sturm (The Storm) and the Section d'Or (Golden Section), as well as artists connected to the Bauhaus. In 1926 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale with the group Die Abstrakten (The Abstract Artists), and in 1930 he joined the Parisian group Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square). Shortly afterward he founded Gruppo 40 (Group 40) and became associated with Abstraction-Création (Abstraction-Creation), a loose movement formed to counteract the influence of Surrealism.
While continuing to paint and exhibit works that touched on stylistic elements of Futurism, Purism, and Surrealism, Prampolini simultaneously explored theater, dance, cinematography, and architecture. In 1925 he founded the dance company Teatro della Pantomima Futurista (Theater of Futurist Pantomine), probably as a response to Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet) and Rolf de Maré's Ballets Suédois (Swedish Ballet); Prampolini himself served as the company's set and costume designer. Among his building designs were pavilions in Turin (1928) and Milan (for the Milan Triennial, 1933), and in 1934 he founded the architecturally focused magazine Stile Futurista. Toward the end of his life, Prampolini expanded into decorative work, including stained glass and mosaics for the Museo nazionale delle arti e tradizioni popolari, Rome, in 1940 to 1941, and for the Milan Triennial in 1954. During his lifetime he was the subject of a monographic exhibition at Galleria di Roma (1941), and posthumously exhibitions of his work have been presented by Galleria Narciso, Turin (1963); Galleria Civica, Modena, Italy (1978); Palazzo Comunale, Todi, Italy (1983); and Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (1992).