Ettore Spalletti

Locus Solus

Everything is dense and light; a soft clarity absorbs the light and gives back color. Clean depths are rarefied in the air beyond the limits of the forms. Colors sink into the surfaces from which they emanate. This is one of the most seductive aspects of Ettore Spalletti’s work shown here, capturing the atmosphere of his studio in Cappelle sul Tavo, where the high Abruzzo mountains are reduced by distance to light blue profiles.

The very space of the gallery acquires a special density, in which Spalletti’s sculptures (all untitled) become moments, or places, of concentration. A white vase (1983) and four amphorae (also 1983)—one blue like the sky, one pink like the flesh of a woman, one gray and neutral, and one white like the gesso in which the color is set—radiate a quiet energy within this space. They are not miserly, but generous (as every work of art ought to be), elements/instruments/filters of passage and of transmutation, of that gap in the perception of things and of the world, that every work of art ought to produce.

On each end wall of the long, narrow gallery is a drawing, also untitled (both 1987), each one a semiabstract silhouette done in graphite on a large sheet of paper. Both are light, yet clear and precise in the void in which they are inscribed, like dreams and apparitions of the morning, when the miracle of day breaks the mystery of night and gives it meaning. One represents a female figure in profile (as in the Cretan frescoes from the 16th century B.C., or the frescoes of Piero della Francesca in Arezzo: the work through time), performing a dance movement (a flamenco: the work is crossed by passion), with a disk balanced on her forehead and an irregular polygon in one hand, held between thumb and fingers that barely touch it, as if it were a wonderful jewel with sharp edges. This polygon, which consists of the lines of a right angle and an oblique angle connected by an arc, is a recurrent form in Spalletti’s work, a secret cipher that breaks the rigidity of the square, escaping the systematic logic of geometry, although its rigor is respected. The drawing on the opposite wall, more delicately shaded than the first, again features a sort of disk, but more ovoid in form. It is a drawing of one of Spalletti’s own sculptures, a ciotola (bowl), somewhat like a basin: a celestial body that has a large area of pure white paper for its sky. The oval is the bowl’s round opening, viewed at an angle.

Spalletti’s work is such that it cannot be located in time, for time is contained within it—the time of the labor that it has taken to produce it, and also the time of the memory and history of the individual artist, but not only this. Like space, time too is transformed, losing its usual dimensions to become gentler, to enfold us and not frighten us with its speed and its flight, but to convince us of its permanence and its duration, and that these qualities are also our own.

In the vase and amphorae, an irreducible and dense substance is solidified; the color doesn’t shine but comes to light, as in a meadow where an underground spring seeps through. The transparency of the sky, the density of the earth, the liquid moment of perception, the slow combustion of time, desire, and passion are not very far from one another, or very different. In these works, form and color, surface and volume, the space of the work and that of life, usually considered quite separate, flow together; here, very sweetly, they are the same thing.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore