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1932 – 1940

There are enough documents to testify that from 1932 until 1940 Maraja has spent most of the time in advertising and graphic design. In these years he opens the Studio ALA in Lugano, where he begins to be appreciated as a poster-maker: studies and posters for the event ‘Festa dell’Uva’ (grape festival) in Lugano e Castagnola document the happiness of a hand using reliably and accurately the technical means. The study and the final realization of the poster for 1933 mark the transition between the geometrical sharpness of the sketch and the freshness of the dynamic synthesis of the finished work. We find the power of instant communication also in the poster for 1936, where a spinning pair almost outs toward the viewer watching: it’s impossible not to retrieve there the studies on futurism and an analogy to Previati for the feminine symbolism and the speed of the sinuous sign. The genuine euphoria of ordinary people appears there, away from the noble and a little rhetorical elegance of liberty posters.

But to understand the variety of Maraja’s styles and his desire to succeed in new applications, it is worthwhile to juxtapose two works from 1936: The poster for the 6th ‘Festa della Vendemmia’ (grape harvest festival) and Ballo Baur au Lac 5 dicembre 1936. If the harmony of the first highlights the freedom gained in interpreting the anatomy, the second refers to the dynamism of Severini’s dancers and Depero’s puppet-characters. Even Bombe Grassi from about 1934 may be a memory of the futuristic themes of Balla’s Compenetrazioni iridescenti or Russolo’s Impressioni di bombardamento-shrapnels e granate from 1926. Without any doubts Lugano is his ideal geographical location: here he mediates his vision between the expressionist tendencies arising from Northern Europe and the Italian vision of illustration.

In the poster for 1935 there is indeed a specific reference to the contemporary history of Italy, with the symbols of the Fascio Littorio (fascist party symbol), rendered with dynamic geometric forms, but most references are those relating to single Italian authors, especially the most popular at that time. In the female figures there is a clear memory of Dudovich from 1927, when he sketches figures of the great fashion mannequins. The slender silhouettes and many other sketches are linked to Boccasile. If one tries to imagine the images displayed in the style of the period, the first artists coming to mind are Cappiello and Seneca. With their very same magic Maraja gets used to communicate, with a synthesis of images and writings directly elaborated on the figures that he invents.

In Lugano in 1935 he begins his collaboration with Bossoni Advertising . This is a friendship that will last for a long time, even after illustration becomes a profession and completely absorbs him. The advertising agency requires him a strong commitment: the final works must be produced in real size, in one to one ratio, and must be so realistic and precise to become then slide-messages for movie interludes. The tribute to the linearity of Liberty is evident in the advertising of LAZZERI haute couture in 1935. The taste for stylization approaches him in those years to the graphic Expressionism of Northern countries. In order to fully understand the importance of the relationship with geometric abstraction, we should refer to the period of stage design. The existing documents related to theater are from1935/36: the theatrical backdrops are contemporary of the study of theatrical costumes sketched for friends gathering at Casa d’Italia (House of Italy) in Lugano. Attributable to 1937/38 are three very original drawings, a perfect synthesis between images and geometry, created to sponsor Lugano, Castagnola and Campione.

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