Giuseppe Gabellone

This first solo museum exhibition of the work of Giuseppe Gabellone originated in France, at the FRAC Limousin. Here the show was adapted to the space of an eighteenth-century palazzo, but with only ten pieces, the selection hardly did justice to the breadth of Gabellone’s work. Still, it did offer some clues as to his preoccupations. His photographs were well represented, though his early sculptures, from the mid-’90s, were ignored in favor of two very recent ones as well as some intermediary works. In their hermeticism, Gabellone’s works seem to address our alienation from the direct experience of reality—or one might say they call into question the very notion of reality, through constructions that are very subtle from a conceptual standpoint.

The photographs are always large-scale (except one new one, which perhaps indicated a new direction) and in color, each printed in a single copy, and technically impeccable. They depict scenes in which objects made by the artist appear: seven cactuses in fresh clay, photographed in a garage; a square basin, likewise of clay, full of water and leaning against a brick wall, a wooden path, similar to those in the Russian mountains, this too shot in an interior. The incongruity of the interior-exterior relationship might bring Surrealism to mind, but the fascination of the works lies in the fact that the objects photographed no longer exist in reality and are presented solely as images, or more accurately as reproductions, forever suspended in a world of pure virtuality. In all this there is a trace of the juvenile cult of the technological image as an end in itself, but something more as well. As Frédéric Paul notes in the catalogue essay, the technical perfection of the photographs makes them disappear as such, turning them into transparent, pure vectors of communication. Yet the object that they convey has already disappeared and has no reality other than that of the photograph—a self-immolation that has the subtlety of a philosophical paradox.

The logical traps contained in Gabellone’s early straw sculptures were of a similar nature. These were his first object pieces (he called them “double sculptures,” as if they were escaping the dominant logic of two-dimensionality), and they could not be experienced in their totality because of either their size or the way they were made. As I mentioned earlier, these were passed over for this exhibition in favor of more recent sculptures, constructed as totally closed boxes with bolted edges. These objects, while clearly three-dimensional, are also alienated from any normal intelligibility. Thus the object is articulated exclusively on the basis of its own mode of realization; it exists to the extent that it results from the labor of its assembly. In fact, it seems that Gabellone is interested in a sort of reflection on the ontological status of the object, whether “double” or not, image or thing.

The chronologically intermediate pieces were from a series of monochrome surfaces from 1998. Each of these is mounted within a frame to which it is attached by two pegs so that it can be turned over to reveal its hidden side, also completely monochrome. However, the fact that they are to be hung on the wall contradicts the initial formulation, preventing that motion from occurring. The act becomes something that is merely potential; the experience is announced only to be inhibited, and the work is resolved on the level of visual paradox, or a partially restrained impulse.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.