Alberto Garutti

Looking like large metal notice boards such as factories used to have, Alberto Garutti’s new works are digital prints (mostly quite large—up to nearly ten feet wide) in pale industrial colors and covered with patterns formed by a single long unbroken line of varying width. The works look like very complicated schemata for switchboards or integrated electronic circuits of some kind. A brief caption engraved on the frame of each board describes precisely what is illustrated: a linear measurement in meters. This measurement indicates the distance that separates the gallery (that is, the artwork itself) from some socially and symbolically important place in the city, such as the town hall, the bank, or a church that houses a masterpiece—or simply from the gallery owner’s house. The artist explains, “Each of these works is generated by a single uninterrupted mark, a line that measures the exact distance between Galleria Minini and certain places, people, and political, cultural, and economic institutions in Brescia. The line is a route through the town compressed into a picture.” With this series, created with the aid of computer graphics programs, Garutti brings back to the gallery—the private and economic space of art—his reflections on the city, a subject that has occupied him for some fifteen years.

Garutti’s works are meant to encourage us to look differently at places, objects, actions, and daily events. To this end, he constructs almost invisible “hooks” that imperceptibly modify urban landscapes: street lamps in a piazza that turn on every time a baby is born in the city (Ai Nati Oggi [To Those Born Today], 2000); or lights in a church turned on from a distance (L’Opera è dedicata agliaibitanti di Buonconvento e a tutti coloro che anche da molto lontano, vorranno passare di qui solo con un pensiero [The Work Is Dedicated to the Inhabitants of Buonconvento and to All People that although from a Distance Will Want to Pass by Here with Only a Thought], 2005); or small exhibition pavilions on the urban periphery, each showing a contemporary artwork that exists in solitude amid solitude, available for a dialogue with anyone who takes note of this territorial and perceptual anomaly.

Garutti’s new work—though similar to the glossy spool of fine nylon thread, hundreds of kilometers long, that measured the distance between the door of Garutti’s house in Milan and the entrance to the SMAK museum in Ghent (Filo km 1073. Distanza dalla porta della mia casa a Milano alla porta del museo S.M.A.K. a Gent [1073 Km Thread. Distance from the Door of My House in Milan to the Door of the S.M.A.K. Museum in Ghent], 1999—draws our attention back toward more economic and linguistic terrain. It is economic in its insistence on the fundamental importance of the gallery; linguistic in that, by transforming a measurement into a sign—significant but fundamentally arbitrary—the artist stages the mechanism of allegory, which transforms what is usually an invisible concept into a visible object. Even more, it transforms the physical activity of measuring into a meaningful abstraction. The use of allegory is as old as art, but Garutti’s way of constructing allegories is new. Indeed, thinking that pure line can be allegorical radically expands the field of application for this rhetorical figure, restoring metaphorical dignity to abstraction—an element it previously possessed, but which recently seems to have been forgotten.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.