Gianni Melotti

Galleria M

Gianni Melotti’s work appears as a reflection upon the space and time in which the art event is experienced, and the rituals that attend that experience. The particular space here is a Florentine gallery laden with signs, frescoes, grotesques, decorative and architectural elements, all superimposed one upon the other, revealing traces of an ancient history. It is punctuated by identical white silicone “paintings” (each 48 by 48 inches), which function as both presences and absences. Melotti’s works are placed like phantasms against the sacred, magical rectangle of the room, their soft outlines left indefinite and uncertain. They respond to the signs of history imprinted upon the walls and ceilings of the gallery. Like formalized traces of a memory, they mark the required stations where the visitor is requested to stop, to observe, to contemplate—in other words, to act according to the rules of obsequious and hieratic behavior.

The ritual of looking here becomes more persistent and stronger than the object itself. Yet even when the object is reduced to the point of transparency, it does not cease to maintain its power of attraction . In this regard Melotti stages what Jean Baudrillard calls a “vanishing point.” With the image exhausted and every function of reference diminished, the only thing a work of art can still maintain is its aura, which, even today, renders it sacred and significant. Thus, Melotti’s transparent canvases, like holy shrouds, appear to be materializations of an aura that completely embraces its object, even extending to the intricately molded frames. The extraordinary lightness of these objects/works allows them to remain suspended between the aphasia of contemporaneity and the weight of history. The remnants of a ritual that is still practiced, even if it seems increasingly difficult to support. But feeling can always respond where reason cannot, as with the necessity of ritual and the naïveté of the image. In the only painted work in this show, Melotti repeats, with a deliberately awkward gesture, the same triumphal procession of figures that decorates the gallery ceiling. Once again, this is an homage to the site, which justifies the presence of the event, and which manages to contain and define the work, restoring its unique meaning within the dispersive hemorrhage of images that contemporaneity produces and imposes upon us.

Alessandro Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.