Renato Ranaldi

Palazzo Fabroni

In the case of Renato Ranaldi—a Florentine artist who began his career in the mid ’60s—the usual difficulties in attempting to describe the visual verbally are intensified to the point that this becomes the critical challenge, especially given the conceptual nature and working process of his art. The key to Ranaldi’s work seems to be the concept of mobility, the perpetual transformation of images, of the idea, the archaic dynamism of the sign.

Traditionally, one uses the phrase “painted sculpture” but not “sculpted painting,” but certain of Ranaldi’s works bring together the languages of both media. They present funnel-shaped forms (an emblem, an archetypal symbol that often recurs in his work) “sculpted” with dense, thick painting, which turns the pieces into three-dimensional objects, challenging the notion of the pictorial as two-dimensional. What is significant in these works is that the image they present simultaneously evokes iconographic, symbolic, or object-related references. A sculpture made in the form of a table with brass inserts suggests both an airplane and a cross; and its strange legs both rabbit feet and oversized boots.

The historical antecedents can clearly he found in the legacy of Dada and Surrealism, but Ranaldi analyzes this linguistic and conceptual patrimony in order to capture the infinite mobility of the universe of objects, symbols, and signs that comprise our cultural experience. Many sculptures are flung vertically in space with their copper or brass antennae responding to a both precise and mysterious architectonic logic. The bases are precariously placed on skis, as if to suggest their imminent departure from the place in which they are found. And it is evident that it is a mobility, a dynamism on a mental level that governs their form.

Materials are often used in atypical fashion; for example, tin is not only used to solder different materials, but also to draw on the brass surface in such a way that the filament of dark and material clots takes on a chromatic value and stands out against the background. Ranaldi’s work also has an obviously ironic vein, evident both in the titles (many of which are untranslatable from the Italian due to their semantic layerings) and in the visual puns which, in the drawings or sculpture-objects, are enlivened by the conceptual and operational idea of perspective. This is why the playful aspect of certain works (combined with their titles) is often the first to be grasped by the viewer; the seriousness of the game seems to be part of both the creative liberty with which these works are produced and the viewer’s ability to see them in reference to an open and multivalent universe.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.