Eduarda (Dada) Emilia Maino was born in Milan on October 2, 1930. A self-taught painter, Maino took up art after completing a degree in medicine. In 1957 she met Piero Manzoni, who became a life-long friend. The following year she became an active figure of the Milanese avant-garde and created her first substantial body of work, the Volumi, punctured canvases which bear a strong resemblance to Fontana’s Buchi. That same year Dada had her first solo show at the Galleria dei Bossi in Milan.

In 1959 she joined the Milan-based experimental group, Azimuth (founded by Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani and Manzoni), which had connections with Group Zero in Germany, Group Nul in the Netherlands, and Group Motus in France. In 1961 Maino took part in a show in the Netherlands, where her name was mistakenly spelt as one word, Dadamaino. She decided to adopt the name from 1963–64 onwards. In 1962 her work was featured in the major Nul group exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The same year she joined the newly founded Nouvelle Tendence movement, whose members included Getulio Alviani, Enzo Mari, Bruno Munari, and Raphael Soto. In the first half of the decade, she became particularly fascinated with the idea of movement, and created a series of optical-dynamic objects. These were followed by the Ricerca del colore series (1966–68) in which she undertook scrupulous analyses of the solar spectrum’s chromatic combinations.

In the 1970s Dadamaino’s work took a different direction as she developed a set of invented signs. Notable among these is L’Alfabeto della mente, a series of seven alphabet-like signs. She filled her compositions with her invented signs, repeating each one endlessly. She resorted to the same set of signs in her following series, I fatti della vita, which she showed in a solo room at the Venice Biennale in 1980. Three years later, a large retrospective of her work was organized by the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan, and in 1990 she participated again in the Venice Biennale. A full retrospective of her work was mounted in 2000 by the Bochum Museum. Dadamaino died in Milan on April 13, 2004.