New York

Marco Gastini

Marco Gastini’s works reflect the kind of fascination with nontraditional materials that has become synonymous with arte povera—the Italian art of his generation. Such a statement is meaningless, however, unless the question of why those materials became signifiers for an entire generation is considered. In contrast to postwar American artists who constructed a language of freedom through an innovative use of traditional materials, many Italian artists—both those who were part of arte povera and those more indirectly influenced by it—adopted “poor” materials in order to free themselves from the psychological burden of Italy’s reactionary past and to conceive of an alternate subjectivity. Made from raw and unrefined charcoal, iron, plaster, wood, canvas, and pigments, Gastini’s work, like that of many of his contemporaries, is based on a notion of expressive freedom rather than on a reductivist esthetic practice.

For this exhibition Gastini presented what he calls “paintings” that start to “take off and fly and invade other spaces.” These works can hardly be called paintings in the traditional sense, however: they are composed of pieces of unstretched raw canvas, some as small as hand towels and others as large as tarpaulins, attached directly to the wall, either singly or in dynamic, overlapping arrangements. In Velato e rivelato (Veiled and reveiled, 1994), for example, he arranges over ten rectilinear swatches of canvas on the wall, tracing the form they create. Branchlike constructions of scrap iron extend from both canvas and wall, mirroring the gestures in charcoal, rust, and plaster before which they hover. Gastini tries to create an effect of what he calls “flight,” which is reflected in the tension and visual confusion among his marks, his iron extensions, and the shadows they cast on the work and on the wall.

For Tra gli echi (Among the echoes, 1994), Gastini’s intervention moves into the space traditionally occupied by sculpture. Hung from the wall with grommets and nails, a large canvas tarpaulin flows onto the floor, hosting a theatrical sea of brown, orange, and black marks, which seem literally embodied by hovering appendages in iron. In front of the tarpaulin, Gastini has arranged 17 iron slabs from which spring two gnarled, treelike structures constructed from iron rods and bits of scrap. Tra gli echi, like the four other works presented in this sparse exhibition, created an atmosphere of postatomic mystery.

Anthony Iannacci