Massimo Bartolini

MASSIMODECARLO | Milan/Lombardia

Massimo Bartolini’s work is tied to nature, understood as inhabited, traveled, and experienced—imbued, in other words, with that totality of emotional, biographical, and cultural elements that we typically connect instead with houses, streets, and urban spaces. Bartolini “mixes” a physical architecture with an imaginary body, a literal evocation of the earth with references to science and technology. This is explicit in an untitled sculpture (all works 2004) in which water in a basin is stirred by irregular waves. But while the movement is produced by mechanical means, the effect is of something mysteriously lifelike. Bartolini sometimes expands or compresses space, constructing rooms like closed boxes within which viewers enter one at a time and confront a blinding light that negates physical and psychological boundaries, or raising the gallery floor so that furniture, doors, and objects seem to sink down into it. Another type of compression and expansion appears in his sculptures of small mountains of gray stone resting on earth. Their reduced scale evokes quattrocento perspective but also suggests the gap between the immensity of nature and what the eye can perceive.

In this show, expansion and compression find an element of equilibrium in a series of fountains. These fountains derive their shape from an imaginary and poetic expansion of a washbasin. They are arranged around a sculpture of a moun- tain on an asphalt slab. The sound of jets of water fills the room, which smells of damp earth. These sculptures become drawings in space. The flow of water does not follow a natural course: In one piece, the jets travel upward through narrow pipes; in another, a garden faucet is submerged by water that, continuing to flow, creates a whirlpool on the surface. In another basin, set on the floor, jets of coffee spurt out from the center, sometimes in a rotating motion. Liquid becomes a material that creates sculptural forms. Its movement emerges as a metaphor for the passage of time—the articulated, stratified time characteristic of art, which symbolically always has a hidden engine (like the hidden mechanism that drives the jets of liquid) to channel diffuse perception, directing it into a form. Temporal and perceptual stratification are condensed and compressed in the sculpture of the stone mountain, the base of which, however, represents undifferentiated time. In fact, on each occasion that the sculpture is exhibited, another layer of earth, tied to the specific site, will be added. (The earth in the gallery was taken from the artist’s studio.) Thus the mountain will grow through the bases that it will incorporate along the way. A metaphor for art resurfaces here: The visionary sense increases with the accumulation of memory and personal intuitions.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.