Carlo Guaita

Galleria Lidia Carrieri

This show was a rather articulate declaration of Carlo Guaita’s intentions and of the possible ways in which his investigations might develop. The four works (all Untitled, 1989) confirmed his adherence to a cold, minimal set of values—to a taut, spare language based on the structure of the grid. Although made of solid iron, the structures seemed light and ephemeral, more mental than physical. And the proof of their flexibility lay in their range of possibilities.

In one work here, Guaita engages in an openly conceptual play between painting and structure, between the field of infinite mental possibilities (the canvas) and the definition of a space (the grid). The final work becomes the site of a thousand possible quotations; in particular, one thinks of Piero Manzoni’s monochromes and Lucio Fontana’s “Spatial Concepts.”

In another piece, two superimposed freestanding grids appear magnified. On the wall a yellow light bulb illuminates the room like an alarm signal, an unexpected warning that breaks the quiet and harmony of this section of the installation, urging visual and mental attention. But there are other possibilities. Another piece superimposes grids that look like benches, one on top of another; they seem to climb toward a blue canvas that hangs on the wall. The deep nocturnal color of the canvas suggests an absolute spatiality toward which the serial and mathematical grids are attracted. Yet another piece, the most complex in the show, occupied the central room of the gallery. Here the possible variants are multiplied, with the grids superimposed in the form of a cross, gathered around a star of opaque glass. The star, an image of purity but also a classic form of fragility, is supported by the wedged iron grids, suggesting an idea of force and of rationality, but also of constriction.

The symbolism of the materials and of the forms was obvious, and this was perhaps the most interesting point of the entire show. For if it is true that Guaita participates in an international revival of minimalist and conceptual poetics, it is also true that this doesn’t suffice to explain his work entirely. Guaita uses an ancient method as the basis of his language: the order, rules, and harmony that create form. It is not the quotation that matters here, but a perceptual stance, the assimilation of a thought process that, in the final analysis, is that of the Renaissance. The equilibrium of forms, the abandonment of conflict between space and surface, the reliance upon a project, and finally the control of space are declarations of faith in the possibility for art to order the world. The same symbolism of colors can be rooted in the grand Renaissance experience: the blue that, according to Guaita, is the same celestial blue of Sienese painting; the yellow of the light bulb that refers to the spirituality of gold. Finally, Guaita returns to the orthogonal nature of the corners, the sober security of the structures, and the tension toward the harmony of the parts among themselves and of the parts with the whole.

Alessandra Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore