Marcello Maloberti

All'incirca alla caviglia (More or less about the ankle; all works 2002): Fifteen Indian immigrants, flower vendors from the streets of Milan, standing with their faces turned away, motionless on stools lined up along the narrow corridor of the gallery, prevented the public from passing through. Each held a splendid and impressive mass of red roses. All'incirca alla vita (More or less about the waist): With her feet on the edge of a tall base, a girl cantilevered dangerously forward into space, held only by a red elastic band stretched across her at waist level. She stared out, expressionless. Such were the two “performances” that Marcello Maloberti prepared for this exhibition, his second, in a newly opened gallery space that was still raw and dark. Rather than performances, really, they might be better described as installations or even paintings—tableaux vivants. Maloberti works by constructing an image in space, a painting in three dimensions orchestrated with great precision through the arrangement of bodies and the articulation of shapes, colors, and lines of force: This is how one came to see those fifteen dark-skinned men and the vivid red blotch of the flowers or the girl performer in the shadowy room and the brilliant red band that kept her from falling as abstract signs. Maloberti utilizes the body as an object, stressing mass, weight, shape, force—intrinsic and objective rather than subjective qualities. It is no accident that the men turned their backs to the public, hiding their faces, or that the glance of the girl was lest in the void; eyes were either absent or without expression. This motif of the negated glance recurs regularly in Maloberti's work. Often he prefers to entrust emotion to the element of the murmured word, a sound track that warms the body and represents its inner voice. But here the word was absent. These two works were at once more theatrical and more abstract than Maloberti's previous efforts, a shift that was emphasized by the precise and dramatic lighting, particularly in More or Less about the Waist.

Maloberti uses the body to create an image; he stresses its form and employs it to define a space. The blocked, checked body, forced into difficult and uncomfortable positions, functions as a sign in space, but this sign is charged with tension and energy. The body becomes the crux of a space that is delineated by the tension it projects: the men on the stools, still but unstable; the girl held in a precarious equilibrium at the edge of the platform, constrained by the taut elastic band, her arms rigid and immobile. These are scenes laden with vibrations and expectations: of a fall, of collapse, of loss of control, of the fragility of a condition whose immutability and certainty are only superficial.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore