View of “Luciano Fabro,” 2015–16. Photo: Agostino Osio.

View of “Luciano Fabro,” 2015–16. Photo: Agostino Osio.

Luciano Fabro

View of “Luciano Fabro,” 2015–16. Photo: Agostino Osio.

These two shows, at both Galleria Christian Stein locations, in central Milan and in the suburb of Pero, constitute a veritable retrospective of the work of Luciano Fabro (1936–2007). The first venue almost entirely recapitulates the artist’s first show, in 1965, at Milan’s Galleria Vismara. In the larger space on the outskirts of the city, a series of key works—including examples of his sculptural cycles Piedi (Feet), 1968–2000; Italia (Italy), 1968–2007; Attaccapanni (Clothes Hangers), 1976–84; and Computer, 1988–2007—provides a comprehensive view of his practice, in an exemplary installation that is almost neoclassical in its lucidity.

Lucidity and classicism, which is to say, form: These terms are relevant to all Fabro’s activity, but they are all ultimately subordinate to his concern with space. Indeed, space was already the theme of his first show, almost as if the artist wanted to begin his career by defining the arena within which he acts. Thus in the works from 1964–65—glass and mirrored pieces that allow the visitor’s glance to traverse the work or bounce back off it, or slender metal structures, among which Ruota (Wheel), 1964, stands out, a suspended metal shaft bent by the weight of a circular ring that rests on it and that seems to roll toward the free end—the extremely clear structure of Fabro’s thought is transformed into equally clear works, with the minimum possible “background noise.” From that point on, what characterizes his work is precisely his capacity to construct metaphors for thought, and always with great formal elegance—his gift is not unlike that of Lucio Fontana, whose work too was at first considered provocative and now seems utterly classical.

Over the years, Fabro introduced an understated narrative aspect to this pristine but not abstract realm, which patently borrows certain materials and forms from the history of art—marble, for example, or the obelisk. But that inevitable moment of quotation is diluted once again in a compositional clarity that no longer needs to be supported by any type of tradition; it appears timeless, the pure fruit of an idea that always seems to come from an unexpected inspiration rather than from a long and carefully thought-out process. That is why Fabro’s works can be appreciated intuitively, and it is only after the mind takes pleasure in creating relationships that we arrive at their narrative or discursive dimension. This feeling that Fabro is able to impose on the viewer has a name: lightness.

Even the extremely heavy projections of marble that are polished on one side, rough on the other—for example, Piede senile I (Ombelico di Venere) (Senile Foot I [Venus’s Navel]), 2000—which seem to be about to slide out of their precarious positions, appear light because the idea from which they emerge is light. The same could be said of the marble “feet” attached to silk legs. The marble transforms the silk into a three-dimensional sign, and then into gesture, resulting in a constant cross-referencing between work to idea. The correspondence between the two is not disturbed by deceptive elements, by anything excessive (what I called “background noise” above), that, instead of adding interpretive richness, risks creating confusion. This yields the lightness I am talking about, a formal ideal that eliminates any Platonic distance between thing and idea.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.