Marco Bagnoli

At the Prato museum Marco Bagnoli exhibited a selection of works from his decade-long career, along with several pieces that were commissioned specifically for the occasion. The most dramatic aspect of this show was his intervention within the space of the museum itself. The building’s structure requires visitors to traverse the museum in a single direction and then double back in order to exit. Bagnoli disrupted this pattern so that one could also enter through the emergency exit, located at the back of the museum, opposite the “official” entrance. However, both of the routes that he created were interrupted by a cordon blocking access to the three rooms that form the architectural “heart” of the space; as a result the pieces installed there could be seen only from a distance. Spectators had to exit the museum and reenter at the opposite end in order to see the show in its entirety.

This manipulation of the space, and of the time required to traverse it, reflects Bagnoli’s intense engagement of the spectator. The works were installed in such a way that they created a network of views echoing from one room to another, as well as a complex series of references to philosophy, science, alchemy, and Eastern esotericism. Metrica e mantrica (Metric and mantric, 1984)—64 elements made of wood and sandstone, each contoured to create a tension between solid and void—was like a forest which spectators could enter and create their own pathways. La Parola (The word, 1991) used an analogous approach. This enormous plaster-and-painted-wood cube, almost five meters high, presented one blank external wall; in the remaining walls narrrow openings had been cut, through which spectators could enter the labyrinth within. The labyrinth actually formed a word, but it remained indecipherable since it was impossible to view the structure from above. Occhio ipogeico (Subterranean eye, 1991–95) manifested the opposite impulse: a composition made out of green, blue, and light-blue glazed terra-cotta tiles, it formed a kind of roof, which was placed on a platform on the floor, rendering visible what normally cannot be seen in its entirety. In the inner room, which visitors could not enter and which could only be viewed from a distance, there was an alabaster, wood, copper, and iron sculpture, Come figura d’arciere (Like a figure of an archer, 1993), which was illuminated by a ray of light, casting a shadow on the wall that from one angle assumed the form of a classical athlete and from another that of a goblet. As the title suggests, the nature of the object is always at least partially determined by the position of the spectator.

At Studio Trisorio in Naples Bagnoli exhibited two pieces of sculpture. The more intriguing of the two, Torso (Torso),1995, a form made out of alabaster, was placed on a tall, rough wooden pedestal. On the wall there was also a concave Plexiglas-and-metal disk that had been treated to enhance its reflective quality. The form of Torso’s reflection changed continually, depending on one’s point of view, at times almost seeming to vanish in its own reflection as though “captured” by the surface. Here, too, a ray of light struck the sculpture, creating on the opposite wall a gigantic shadow, and, as in all of Bagnoli’s work, it was the artist’s sensitivity to materials that gave Torso a magical quality.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.