Villa delle Rose

One of the most interesting Italian artists from the generation that emerged during the ’80s, Nunzio was recently accorded his second large-scale museum show. In this multifaceted exhibition, there was an urgent and unpredictable rhythm in the alternation of works—alternately concave and convex, jagged and polished, hospitable and mysterious forms. Nunzio’s seductive structures, assembled out of burnt wood or lead, seemed like veiled contours, sutures in the hollows of material. In Nunzio’s work, the wood, blackened and “purified” by fire, takes on a neutral value. Simultaneously new and archaic, it becomes a peremptory shadow, a “negative” of the universe that surrounds it. In the works made of lead, the metal becomes a fluid, harmonious instrument that expands and contracts like a primordial opaque plasma, molded by the artist’s imagination—a hot and poisonous material encroaching on art’s territory.

In Oceano (Ocean, 1986–87) the floor of the room, carpeted in lead, swelled up in the middle to echo another mysterious, oval form hanging on the wall that could be read as an elliptical shield or a hagiographic mandala. Mediterranea (Mediterranean, 1989) rose from two adjacent sides of a large room, an imposing forest of burnt-wood forms. Like an immense, heterogeneous tribe stretched in an ecumenical embrace, the sculpture merged with the surrounding area so that there was no clear demarcation between the work and the viewer. In Stella (Star, 1990), the five-pointed outline of a star—painted (or more precisely stained) blue—rose from the ground. Earth and sky, sacred and profane, converged in these works.

In other works, Nunzio continued to work with the space, questioning the notion of a stable, fixed position for the spectator vis-à-vis the work. Donna d’Oriente (Woman from the East, 1994), a vertical labyrinth of sensuous cavities, stretched supplely and mysteriously. In Torrida (Torrid, 1990), the sinuous, harmonious shape of the wood created a sense of material vibration. In Opale (Opals, 1991) the circular swirls of the lead and the linear grooves of the wood gracefully played off each other, as if to suspend gravity momentarily. Similarly, the dense torrent of very tall burnt planks arranged in a curve that comprise Diluvio (Flood, 1993) captured the spectator in their subtle web, barely permitting a glimpse of the surrounding space. In Passagio (Passage, 1994), bundles of sticks arranged in a v pointed to the intersection of reality and illusion, art and life; they seemed like the formal skeleton of something in the act of becoming.

Mario Codognato

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.