Eliseo Mattiacci

Mercati di Traiano

Trajan’s Market, in the center of the Eternal City, is one of the entrances to the Roman Forum. Eliseo Mattiacci’s recent sculptures seem to have found an ideal site at this fascinating threshold between the ancient and the contemporary. The market entrance is structured like a large rectangular atrium, the two long sides of which have a total of twelve doorways leading to an equal number of side spaces. Three spaces on the right side are connected to each other by two doors, and it is here that the most spectacular installation, La mia idea del cosmo (My idea of the cosmos), 2001, was located. The floor was entirely covered with lead balls, on top of which were two large spheres and a hemisphere of aluminum, the latter apparently half sunk into the ground. The idea of the cosmic landscape—with the cosmos evoked by geometric figures such as the sphere and the circle, perfect in their seeming recapitulation of all possible directions and dimensions—is a recurrent motif in Mattiacci’s recent work. Exhibited in an ancient space, these large metal forms ended up sharing with the Roman brick and marble an idea of ancientness that transcends real time and even the physicality and weight of the work’s constituent elements.

Many of Mattiacci’s sculptures take form through the invisible energy of magnets attached to metal surfaces. Equilibri (Equilibria), 2001, the five ample disks in the Market’s central atrium, stayed upright on their thin edges because they adhered to large magnets placed on the ground. Campo magnetico (Magnetic field), 1991, consisted of an iron circle lying on the floor. surmounted by a long blade of the same material hanging in the air from another magnet suspended from the ceiling. In fact, much of the fascination of Mattiacci’s work resides in the relationship between energy and material, and this leads the artist to install his pieces, with their disarming formal clarity, in widely varying relationships with the space. (It is a shame that one work, Gong, 1992-93, a steel disk hung from one of the ceiling arches in the central space, had to be withdrawn for reasons of safety shortly after the show opened.)

In more recent works, Mattiacci shows a tendency to conceive the work as an almost theatrical manipulation of space. This direction, seen in My Idea of the Cosmos, was also present in two installations on the left side of the market. Luce-buio (light-darkness), 2001, consisted solely of an enormous slab of iron, which cut the space in half, leaving the inner portion in darkness. (The visitor could enter through an opening cut in the slab.) Labirinto per una sfera (Labyrinth for a sphere), 2001, was a mental space—a metaphor represented by a series of iron girders placed diagonally, touching the brick barrel vault, almost as if to prop it up. The tangle of rigid bars gave the impression of obstructing the movement of a sphere placed on the ground, and the latter blocked the approach of anyone who might have wanted to penetrate that forest of iron.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.