Fiorella Rizzo

Galleria Stefania Miscetti

In this installation, 22 upright steles made of red earth (sometimes tinted black) enclosed a sort of sacred, resonant space, like hermetic and indecipherable monoliths left behind by some ancient culture. The theme was the visualization of the mystery that surrounds the number 22, the emblematic cipher common to signs and symbols of diverse civilizations. There are 22 letters in the Latin and Hebrew alphabets, 22 books in the Old Testament, 22 chapters in the Apocalypse, 22 tarot cards, 22 prayers in the Avesta, 22 signs in the Syrian alphabet, 22 things that God generated during the six days of the creation, 22 days used to organize the world, according to a Mambara myth in Mali, and finally, 22 stars that guide the Matakam people.

These are mysterious correspondences that overcome temporal and spatial distances. And yet, in some fashion, they end up resonating in the subtle yet accessible labyrinth set forth by the 22 steles in this piece. Each stele is different from the others, each the image of the possible form of a mystery. And at the center, there is the One—the point, the sun, the totality of the Ego. Then there is 12, the number of sacrifice, crossed by a cut that lacerates the construction like a wound, threatening the steles’ stability. Or there is 16, the miraculous sum of three “monoliths” that sway, one over the other, symbolizing equilibrium.

One could continue with this fascinating play of correspondences, rattling off every possible iconographic reference, while seeking to capture every symbolic evocation. However, one runs the risk of distorting the very essence of this work. In fact, the crucial point around which the 22 steles rise, the very force that magnetically holds them so closely together, is not the decodification of an enigma, nor the resolution of a mystery; rather, it is the enigma itself that is the very essence of the mystery, thus becoming the perceptible form without ceding any of its totality. This is the profound challenge that has preceded the birth of this complex installation, entitled Cripta (Crypt, 1989–91), referring to a site that symbolizes the first connecting link between earth and sky—the deepest of the sites of the Revelation and the first movement toward an elevation.

The question that always arises in Fiorella Rizzo’s pieces is how to revive art’s primary role today; how to refind, intact, art’s expressive and evocative force; in short, how, in our secular and pragmatic times, is it possible to recognize an intelligence, essential and necessary to the very survival of man, which is capable of heeding the force of symbols. This is a question that is now more urgent than ever. This work—surely the most demanding and most complete that Rizzo has made to date—succeeds in addressing the most radical, conceptual, and contemporary questions about the role and meaning of art as a striving toward harmony, beauty, and the equilibrium of the parts with the whole.

Alessandra Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.