Eugenio Giliberti

TH. E.

The essence of Eugenio Giliberti’s work may be the obsessiveness that is involved in its creation. The final result of each of his projects, however perfect its execution, is less important than the steps that were taken to create it. But Giliberti’s emphasis on process, which was suggested in his recent show by a pointed use of diagrams and preliminary instructions, as well as self-consciously laborious techniques, does not preclude his producing tactile and visually compelling objects.

This show, Giliberti’s first in his native city in more than ten years, was almost crowded with work, containing a number of pieces: a large red disk on the floor; an array of convex, monochrome squares; a yellow wall contrasting dramatically with the building’s 18th-century architecture; and, perhaps most remarkably, a series of sheets of paper on which the artist drew somewhat maniacal diagrams indicating the 680,400 color combinations that could be derived from a selection of ten colors that he had organized into three triptychs. Although the last piece may, at first glance, have seemed an exercise in pure rationality, in the end it amounted to an almost obsessive refusal to depart from rigorous preplanning.

Although Giliberti’s stance may seem overly rigid, it does allow him to define a space within which he can work; he clearly establishes the limits of each project, even for pieces that are gigantic in size. Thus, in exchange for his own “submission” to his work, the artist finds consolation in completely exploring a territory, in leaving nothing to chance. The motivation behind the work seems a compulsive search for certainty and the means to achieve it. To obtain his brilliant surfaces Giliberti uses the ancient technique of encaustic, which involves repeated applications of hot paint mixed with wax, so that the pigment is “ironed” onto the surface, resulting in an almost morbid degree of perfection. He also accentuates the work’s materiality by constructing a container to be exhibited with each individual panel.

Finally, for this show Giliberti created,for the first time, a wall piece using tools that he had made out of electrical resistors to distribute the encaustic. This wall actually emanated heat, so that the piece could be seen as a metaphor for the true impulse behind the work: not the coldness so often associated with reason, but rather the warmth of sentiment and subjectivity. Giliberti’s work suggests a celebration of artmaking as a manual act, as much as intellectual game-playing. I don’t know if, like Warhol, Giliberti aspires to become a machine, but clearly he does aim to be a machinist.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.