Executed in 1971, Generale marks an interesting reprisal of one of Enrico Baj's most recognised themes. Originally conceived in the late 1950s, Baj created a series of strange, stunted authority figures, assembled with the use of collage items-- coins became medals, pieces of scrap ribbon mimicking the decorations for valour worn by soldiers. In Generale this technique is clear, with the assembled detritus of everyday life creating this slightly surreal authority figure, buttons and a belt and the scraps for camouflage combining to create a farcical image of a soldier.
Baj's art functions on several levels, fulfilling various purposes. This pastiche general is a figure of fun and ridicule, reflecting the political thought and rebellion that often characterised his greatest works and series. Indeed, a sense of satire, and of digs at authority have almost constantly played a part in Baj's artistic output, unsurprisingly considering the unstable state of affairs that marked Europe's, and especially Italy's, political scene in the aftermath of the Second World War. While the first of the Generale series emerged in the late 1950s, this reprisal of the theme comes only a few years after such tumultuous events as France's short-lived 1968 student uprising. Sometimes, the targets of Baj's criticism were presidents and politicians, while at other times the canon of modern art, such as the masterpieces of Seurat and Picasso, have been reassembled with the use of Baj's own unique visual style, for instance elements from Guernica being recreated from rubbish. The artist's style and his techniques however also relate his work to that of many other avant garde artists from throughout the Twentieth Century, not least his contemporaries. The flattened character and the rough texture recall Jean Dubuffet, while the scrap elements in the collage recall Arman and even Dada, two strands which also reflect the anarchic humour so inherent in his work.