Franco Angeli Half Dollar is one of the subjects most frequently portrays in Angeli’s artworks. As for Andy Warhol‘s Marylin, for Angeli, the half dollar becomes an identifying mark to be reproduced in series, like the American Pop Art obsession for the repetitiveness. Why the half dollar?
Franco Angeli (1935 – 1988) is one of the key exponents of Italian pop art, known for taking part in the historic artistic movement known as the “Scuola di Piazza del Popolo”, an artistic experience born in the sixties, in Rome, together with Mario Schifano, Giosetta Fioroni and Tano Festa, which used to meet at the Caffè Rosati in Piazza del Popolo or at the La Tartaruga Gallery by Plinio De Martiis.
The HALF DOLLAR symbol is represented on various supports and with different colors but always remains unchanged and represents, in all circumstances, the symbol of the half-dollar American coin depicting an heraldic eagle that surrounds an olive branch in the rostrums, a symbol of peace, and a bundle of thirteen arrows, as many as the Original Colonies that gave birth to the USA.
The half dollar coin has been produced since the birth of the American mint in 1794 and is the United States currency that was coined in greater quantities after the cent. Surely, therefore, the symbol that Franco Angeli depicts on the artworks is a very strong reference to the United States of America.
On the surface it might seem that the artist, in the spasmodic representation of the half dollar, intended to enhance the American power. But the truth is the exact opposite because Angeli’s criticism of the American culture is evident in one of his first Half Dollars. An X is superimposed on the American icon making the message of repudiation and departure from that symbol, from the culture of the dollar, from commodification and everything made in the USA explicit.
Resuming the words of the critic Fagiolo, Angeli found in the coin the “small symbolic world” that for years he had sought and believed he had found in flags, then in coats of arms, then in lapidary inscriptions. The coin, in the hands of Angeli, becomes something total, even if it is only an emblematic image, even if it is only a conventional base of exchanges, even if it is only the symbol of a symbol “