New York

Pietro Finelli

Trabia-Macafee Gallery

In his recent wall pieces and freestanding sculptures, Italian artist Pietro Finelli reveals a new approach. His earlier works were grids of discrete images drawn or painted on folded brown paper. The images, which ranged from abstractions to figures and landscapes, were arranged in non-narrative sequences based on visual associations and personal memories. The work was conceptual without sacrificing a strong visual quality.

While the title of this show, “Lost Watches,” implies a continued concern with time, memory, and autobiography, the new works suggest a decisive break with the past. In several pieces the grid remains, although here realized primarily in zinc-coated iron and aluminum. The compositions have begun to move off the wall and into the room, evolving from graphic works into sculptures. In Regalità (Majesty, all works 1988), one element next to the wall grid bends outward, and a cylindrical form inside its own grid stands on the floor several feet away. The work’s polished copper serves as a mirror, substituting the viewer’s own reflection for external images and playing on the notion of reflection as memory. Recurrent geometric forms such as cones, circles, and squares suggest the diagrammatic typological studies popular among such contemporary Italian architects as Aldo Rossi.

In some works, the miniature scenes and figures inside the grid have been replaced by treated metal surfaces. Finelli pours acid on the iron in Spending Time to create expressionist explosions of color and texture. Although he still inscribes words and phrases on certain pieces, he seems to be moving away from referential techniques, whether pictorial or verbal. The blank grids of Rhythm (together with the breathing of a man) and medium are mute; in this context, the anomalous—11—, a copper horn snaking up from a small, speakerlike element, resembles some curious musical instrument intruding on the resounding silence. Finelli’s move away from specific forms and their associations may be an attempt to transcend the confines of the self and to arrive at a less personal, more universal language. But while these new works seem almost too self-assured, too fastidiously determined, their cool metallic surfaces in the end say less than the earlier, scrappier works. Their hermetic self-containment ultimately excludes the viewer.

Lois E. Nesbitt