Tristano di Robilant

Tristano di Robilant’s work has developed around an unlimited, almost playful engagement with the materials, techniques, and “practices” of art which he links together in a game of continual references. Preexisting or handmade objects (a bucket, a brick, a stopper) are fused to or molded into another material, changing in substance, weight, and appearance. Once assembled, these shapes generate autonomous, versatile imaginary structures that, with the help of poetic or subtly ironic titles, create an open system that investigates the significance of making sculpture. Their solidity is counteracted by a multiplicity of interpenetrations and juxtapositions that produce an unexpected, spontaneous, almost alchemical fluidity, though existing proportions or boundaries are never literally disregarded.

The largest work in this show was the clearest example of di Robilant’s strategy; entitled Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, 1994, it depicts a small, half-built house of bricks. The clay bricks are the light and empty casts that lie inside the much heavier standard-size blocks. The little house seems solid, but is really extremely light as if a breath of wind would suffice to topple it; in this work, di Robilant reveals what underlines the illusion of solidity. He further explores the space between form and content in Red Speakers, 1994. Here, the putative function of the objects contrasts with the density and mute quality of the terra-cotta from which they are made.

A group of three small bronzes entitled Tail, 1994, consists of casts of four clay loaves of bread piled vertically with the top one folded over to simulate the shape of a tail. Each piece has a different patina, like a skin, a carnality that is almost animate. In the bronze cast of Shovel Crown, 1994, sequential blows of the shovel on the ground form a crest, and, with a childlike and instantaneous stroke of imagination, a humorous and unexpected crown. Di Robilant’s harmonious, gesturally organic designs transmit palpitating biomorphic qualities to inanimate objects and tools.

Mario Codognato

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.