Pierluigi Calignano


In 1964 the great Italian designer Bruno Munari stated that the “task of the designer is to produce precise objects,” to find the form best suited for expressing a given function concisely and with respect for the intrinsic qualities of materials. Pierluigi Calignano, by contrast, produces imprecise objects, or ones in which precision becomes an ambiguous concept (and not only because the artist enjoys encouraging objects’ nonfunctional connotations and creating incongruous juxtapositions in a surrealist vein). For instance, one piece in this show, 15 psichedelici guardano il muro (15 Psychedelics Look at the Wall; all works 2004), consisted of a series of colored strobe lights facing the wall, releasing colored halos and at the same time negating their luminosity. Relocated within the dimension of the useless and distanced from their functionality, things undergo an augmentation of their semantic dimension—they signify a function without actually performing it.

Calignano also reflects on how precision results from the process of architectural or industrial design, which finds its most salient means in technical drawing. The artist’s creation of a surreal object is preceded by technical sketches and preparatory drawings, a procedure borrowed from the very design modalities he has appropriated ironically. Progetto per scultura (Project for a Sculpture) is the title given to each of two drawings made with colored enamel dots on paper. Both sheets depict a sort of geometric shape that is multiplied and repeated ad infinitum, superimposed over and over again. The artist evokes a project that does not produce exact things and represents only itself, constructing and organizing itself into an autonomous and self-sufficient structure. Calignano further explores the idea of a precision that is nurtured by its own myth. Working on two flattened cardboard boxes, the artist has drawn, respectively, an anamorphosis of Paolo Uccello’s Perspective Study of a Chalice, 1430, and a perspective study of a hydraulic wheel conceived by Leonardo da Vinci in one of his codices. Both works are entitled Studio prospettico (Perspective Study). It is no accident that the two sources Calignano uses as his points of departure are perspective studies for the design of objects. Calignano is playing with the idea of a design of a design.

On one wall of the gallery, Calignano traced an anamorphosis of a circle, Per alimenti (For Food). Colored paper doilies mark twenty-four points along the ellipse formed when the circle is represented in perspective as seen from an angle. Using four stencils to draw animals, he created Bestie (Beasts), 110 pen and pencil drawings on paper, seventeen of which were in the show. The silhouettes of the animals, arranged geometrically and in mirror images on the sheet, create an abstract bestiary of shadows that bring to mind the organic shapes of a Rorschach test. Thus the function of a tool of precision, the stencil, is subverted. Exact science, mathematical model, and geometry lose their cognitive value and reveal a fantastical quality. Calignano is an ironic builder, and in his objects and drawings, design appears in the guise of play.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.