Giuseppe Gabellone

Giuseppe Gabellone is one of the first artists to show at Claudio Guenzani’s newly opened project space, which may seem appropriate inasmuch as all of the artist’s shows are “special projects”—projects whose enigmatic nature provides cause for reflection and debate. This was true of his contribution to the 2003 Venice Biennale, where he presented large plastic bas-reliefs with Japanese figures, probably of ancient derivation—a discordant and inexplicable union of image and material. The memory of these pieces is present on this latest occasion, because groups of Eastern figures are again depicted on two bas-reliefs, built here, however, from a strange blend of aluminum powder, vinyl glue, and a tobacco mixture. The tobacco emits an acrid aroma when it comes into contact with the other materials, making the choice of the two images even more mysterious.

Unlike the figures in the Venice pieces, with their highly developed relief, those in the works on view here were barely perceptible, almost flattened against the silver background, while the support acquired a strong architectonic aspect. Above them hovered a series of small pyramids whose shape recalled the rusticated stones on the facades of Renaissance palaces, and whose overall organization brought to mind a roof, with the final result that it looked like a schematized pagoda. Next to these two elements was a third plastic element on the wall, another incongruous presence, a large, irregular volume, geometric and faceted, and divided into two elongated sections, upper and lower, with a small side “arm,” the entire piece clad in a mirrored surface. If the two silver pieces evoked the Far East, this faceted and reflective object seemed truly foreign in the space, like something from an utterly different universe of meaning.

The insistence of the image is always an element in Gabellone’s work, and, reusing photographs of books and newspaper clippings, he constantly investigates their meaning. His first step in this process is an attempt to amplify the image’s power to fascinate and its intrinsic semantic multiplicity, revealing a desire to make it “reverberate,” striking our senses in unusually significant fashion. This is why every show by this artist is also an environmental installation, a distinct and separate space where our perception is linked precisely to this differentiation; thus, in this case, the bas-reliefs have an odor. Furthermore, the gallery was modified to create an environment even more closed off than usual, by means of a diaphragm of yellow canvas that covered the entire window wall and also limited the entry area. The yellow canvas was wrapped around and supported by vertical metal bars, placed at the two far ends of the space, creating an interstice that took on a plastic, sculptural quality. In fact, this canvas construction was another sculpture, not only a device for obstructing the space, though it nonetheless functioned as an organizational element as well. It transformed the gallery into a “marked” territory, according to the artist, one that was “protected,” and above all it influenced one’s perception of the other works thanks to the immaterial yellow halo that inevitably, if almost imperceptibly, invaded the space.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.