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Mario Nigro was born in Pistoia on June 28, 1917. In 1929, the Nigro family moved to Livorno where, in 1933, aged sixteen, he began to paint as an autodidact. Meanwhile, his education took a decidedly scientific turn: in 1941 he graduated in chemistry from Pisa University; in 1947 he took his second degree, in pharmacy. In 1946 and 1947 he transformed his painting into a non-objective style, and he soon developed an original version of abstraction nourished by his scientific background.
In 1949 he had his first solo exhibition at the Libreria Salto in Milan, where he met Lucio Fontana and the Milanese movement known as M.A.C. Movimento Arte Concreta. With the cycle of the ritmi continui simultanei (continuous simultaneous rhythms) and that of the pannelli a scacchi (chequered panels), the artist was aware that he had progressed beyond the canons of Concrete Art. Dating from the end of 1952 are the first works in the spazio totale (total space) cycle, which Nigro carefully systematized from the theoretical point of view with a series of writings published in 1954 and 1955. In 1956 a dramatic tension with a strongly expressive basis developed in Nigro’s work, and generated the tensioni reticolari (reticular tensions) series and, at the end of the decade, prompted him to adopt a style close to that of Art Informel.
In 1958 he resigned from his post as a pharmacist and moved to Milan to devote himself to painting. In 1959, he had three solo exhibitions: at the Galleria Kasper, Lausanne, at the Galleria del Cavallino, Venice, and at the Galleria Annunciata, Milan. A year later the severe injuries he received in a car crash prevented him from painting for some time. Between 1965 and 1975 Nigro started to create environmental works, which he also exhibited at the 1968 Venice Biennale. From the mid-1970s onwards, he began his investigation of what he described as the elementary geometric concept of the metaphysics of color, followed by his analisi della linea (analysis of the line). In 1983, the interrupted line was sensitized through its transformation into a series of dots, giving rise to the subsequent cycles of the orizzonte (horizon) and the orme (tracks). In 1984 the municipality of Pistoia devoted a large retrospective exhibition to the artist. Mario Nigro died in Livorno on August 11, 1992.