Luciano Fabro

Inscribing a circle around the rule, or squaring the circle, seems the subject of Luciano Fabro’s latest installation, Prometeo (Prometheus, 1986). The work is difficult, concentrated, and complex, but looks simple, with a minimum of elements present. Prometeo probably falls into that class of Fabro works in which an entire period contracts and a new period announces its traits.

The density of the work’s formal, mathematical, and spatial content may be perceived in a description: a triangle and a pentagon are inscribed within an unseen circle. The triangle and the pentagon are made from surveyor’s instruments used to measure heights. The geometric figures rest on the corners of white-veined marble columns. Red, white, and black blades shaped like spears, of the kind used by surveyors to identify fixed points in the ground, are planted at every crossing. The sides do not close but remain slightly open, and the columns retain a certain independence even though they act as supports.

One first senses an enlarged vista because of the unexpected combination of materials: the printed aluminum poles and the marble columns form an impossible couple. The eye adapts to the material opposites, dilating the real dimensions of the work. The spatial action of the geometric figures, neither closed nor still on their supports, becomes highly dynamic.

The columns themselves are simply the way the electric drill that extracted them from the block left them. The sculptor’s hands have acted here and there, accentuating, prolonging, or smoothing the traces and stripes left by the mechanical tool. The ornamental design released by this process appears involuntary, like an effect that was unsought but later appreciated. Its freshness reemphasizes the balance with the poles’ technological aspect.

The subsequent assault first strikes one’s eye, then one’s intelligence: what is the geometric figures’ logic? Fabro himself has declared that they represent a two-year-old enigma for him. The date coincides with his execution of Euclide (Euclid, 1984), a work suspended in air, which concluded a period of interventions in high space. Euclide is a square metallic frame with a steel segment positioned transversely, which, at a distance and in the air, seems to assume various positions as the spectator moves about. At one point the square seems a cube; the volume takes shape through the real and virtual movement connected to the work.

The component of movement is now the secret of Prometeo. As in Euclide, it comes from unclosed and unstable geometric figures. The premise is clear: geometry will not suffice to orient and guide if it is not subjected to movement and the tempo of contemplation. This is the point: the real theme of this form is orientation. Euclide projected the dynamics of the visual order upward, into open space; in Prometeo the projection is directed to the earth. This is the function of the columns, made of earth (marble), which rise from the earth; the geologist’s instruments allude to the earth, since they measure it.

The sculptor delights in the earth, manipulates and rejoices in it, as the sculpture exhibited next to Prometeo–Efeseo (Ephesus, 1986)—declares. Efeseo is a splinter of marble intact on one side and polished on the other; two soft lips open on one fold. But the artist casts his thought over the entire world; his vista is possessive and he aims to testify to its possession, like Prometheus, who stole the fire of knowledge from the gods.

Jole De Sanna

Translated from the Italian by Mayta Munson.