Milan

Maurizio Mochetti

Gio Marconi Gallery

This exhibition by Maurizio Mochetti, a Roman artist who had his first solo show in 1968, resembled an adolescent’s playroom. One installation—Pinguini (Penguins), 1987/2005—included a group of models of Nazi rockets with multicolored paint jobs, apparently ready to blast off vertically. Nearby, in Baka con punti laser (Baka with Laser Points), 1976/2005, a red laser beam cut across the length of a model of a Japanese missile. Another room contained Gee Bee, 1983/2004, a model of an American fighter plane from the ’30s, equipped with a motor, turned on at chance intervals, which would have allowed the model to fly were it not held to the floor by cables. There was one more model—Bluebird CN7, 1996/2002—this one of a record-breaking race car, immobile but with its parachute open as if filled with wind. Finally, Forme piene e laser (Full Forms and Laser), 1987/2005, consisted of an irregular red abstract shape, low and flat on the floor, around the outer perimeter of which a laser point, also red, raced at varying speeds.

Over the years, viewers have become accustomed to Mochetti’s childlike obsession with cars, takeoffs, and explosions, and, at the same time, to his hyper-refined analysis of the immateriality and purity of form, as well as his use of laser beams. But this latest show, which seems deliberately tilted in favor of the artist’s early research, conveys a sort of longing for heroism, in particular the kind that is found in defeat, and in the pleasure of identifying with the hero who knowingly throws himself into a losing situation. The forms that the artist has chosen to suggest this—replicas of real vehicles that were built, piloted, and often destroyed in test runs—are all somehow embryonic and risky: rockets that were not thoroughly tested, since their makers were aware of imminent defeat; unstable and disproportionate fighter planes, which turned out to be impossible to maneuver; cars that would tip over or break apart if they encountered a mere pebble in their path. Yet these are beautiful forms, above all, perhaps because of their specific histories, thoroughly known to the adolescent who builds the models in the privacy of his room, in the silence of his fantasies. There is no temptation to align oneself with the victors; grandeur and tragedy belong to the vanquished, who fight, not for an ideology, but rather, like Yeats’s Irish airman, for “a lonely impulse of delight”; no celebration of Nazism or imperialism but rather admiration for invention and drive in the service of madness, a madness not very different from that of the American pilots in the ’30s who raced in circles in some remote part of the Midwest or who lost their lives to establish a speed record that someone else would break a few years later.

Certainly all this bespeaks a certain fascination with “the beauty of speed” and “the aesthetics of the machine,” two fundamental components of Italian Futurism, but this work is more than a historical commentary. It conveys a human characteristic that may be hidden in some recess of even the most rational (though most likely male) heart. It is Mochetti’s merit to bring out this adolescent trait, which is not always outgrown, and which can sometimes metamorphose into something more monstrous, if one lacks the courage to give it tangible form where it is manifested more objectively.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.