Bologna, Italy

Gilberto Zorio

Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna

Gilberto Zorio’s exhibitions always provide an effective confrontation with space: The artist constructs new works or environments that interact with their architectural envelope. In the large hall of the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (mambo), Zorio has created the most recent installment of his series of “Towers,” begun in 1976—constructions, made from light, aerated concrete blocks, in the shape of a five-pointed star. Here, the shape of Torre Stella Bologna (Bologna Star Tower), 2009, can be perceived only from the museum’s second-story windows above, which look out from a corridor onto the interior space that Zorio has screened off with panels. Moreover, it is only possible to see the work—one side of which stretches as far as the museum entrance and beyond—through cracks carved into the panels. Many of the artist’s past and recent works are placed around the construction. The image of the star is also repeated in various formats and materials. Stella Sparks (Sparks Star), 2008, and Stella Pyrex (Pyrex Star), 2009, both large-scale and suspended from above, stand out in the space of the central hall. In the latter work, timers activate compressors that blow air inside the ten alembics, moving the fluorescent and phosphorescent liquid inside them, and switch on and off the light on the star. The dynamism of Stella Sparks is more complex and involves the entire exhibition space. This imposing work involves ten stroboscopic lights directed toward the wall from which it is suspended; when the lights of the hall turn off, the strobes intermittently flash and then immediately turn off, revealing previously invisible traces of phosphorescent color spread over the wall. During the period of darkness one also sees small electrical discharges of ten voltaic arcs applied to the large star, which emit a warm, flashing light.

Zorio has thus attained a high level of technical complexity, but his practice also embraces extreme simplicity. The two lower halls flanking the central space like the aisles of a church include a number of star pieces created out of javelins, incised into crystal, or made from bronze, terra-cotta, or leather. Stella incandescente (Incandescent Star), 1972, is made out of an electrical resistance wire rendered incandescent and rarely exhibited because it is so dangerous, as is Confine incandescente (Incandescent Boundary), 1970, one of Zorio’s most famous works. This overview also includes pieces from the beginning of Zorio’s career, when he was using materials such as blue iron pipes and red expanded polyurethane (Untitled, 1966), inner tubes (Untitled, 1967), and chemicals such as cobalt or copper sulphate, iron filings, and magnets, which place the work in a continuous process and result in reactions that are not entirely predictable.

Sound plays an important role, too, as in the recent Canoa Che Avanza (Canoe That Advances), 2007, where the rhythmic movement of two pigskin bags being mechanically filled and emptied produces a strong hiss, as well as in other works that have not been seen for some time, such as the installation Microfoni (Microphones), 1968, in which anyone who wants to can stand on a cement block, speak into a microphone, and hear the words come back, like an echo that is all the more suggestive precisely because it is artificial.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.