While studying the artists of the Arte Povera movement, I was immediately enchanted with the work of Luciano Fabro. His work took sculpture to an entirely new dimension, transforming and revamping the medium in contemporary art. Upon first seeing Efeso II (Ephesus II, 1986), I was overwhelmed by the weightiness of the roughhewn white Carrara marble, hanging high in the air in beautiful defiance. Imposing steel cables hold the marble in place, balancing it in the air, dematerializing the weight of the object and magically giving it a sense of lightness.
Fabro’s Marmo colaticcio e seta naturale (Piede) (Colaticcio marble and natural silk (Foot), 1968 – 1970) offers a glimpse into some primordial past; a surreal sculptural form that resembles the claws of birds and the paws or hooves of strange animals and mythological creatures. Fabro focuses his attention on the element upon which the weight of traditional, classical sculpture ultimately falls, and which offers it stability: the foot or the pedestal of a sculpture.
Fabro’s work often referenced mythology as a way to reveal psychological, cultural, or societal truths. This is one of the reasons why we chose works such as Eos and Efeso II for our collection at Magazzino. Eos (L’Aurora) consists of two cylindrical marble columns: one ivory colored and the other black. Eos, the goddess of dawn, is a female being who generates herself each day and drives her chariot across the vast horizon both morning and night. Caught having sexual relations with Aphrodite’s lover Ares, Eos is condemned to have an insatiable sexual desire. Fabro’s wit, sense of humor, and playfulness is often seen in his work.
All of Fabro’s work on view at Magazzino generates deep responses from our visitors. We feel that the archetypes defined in myth give the viewer the ability to relate to the characters and the situations that recur in human culture. In my opinion this is why Fabro’s work will always have a timeless sensibility and is contemporary. One visitor wrote a beautiful letter to us stating,
Upon seeing and feeling the weight of Efeso, I felt somewhat unhinged from my moorings. That this beautiful environment could be created and given honor to and celebrate the minds of artists, their art being held, as if loved, in a space of such magnificent scale, deeply moved me.
One cannot comment on Fabro’s influence without mentioning the irony he gave to many titles of his work. For example, two other works we chose to exhibit at Magazzino engage with the geographical form of Fabro’s Italies, It-alia (1971) and Italia all’asta (1994). It-alia consists of two separate parts of mirrored plates of glass cut in two, along the line that separates the north and south of the Italian peninsula. The two pieces are attached to sheets of lead and are displayed on the ground, at the point where the wall meets the floor, highlighting the economic division that separates the two parts of the same country.
Italia all’asta (Italy on a pole/Italy on sale at auction) consists of two maps of Italy, one right side up and the other upside down. Italy’s shape becomes an enigmatic object that opens up a host of interpretations. Like a commodified object, Italy was, according to Fabro, sold off in a political auction. The artist is playing on the dual meaning of the word “asta” in Italian: asta, the pole upon which the maps of Italy are displayed, is also the word for auction. We particularly loved these works because they invited reflections on the very notion of national identity in the context of internationalism that characterize the times in which they were created and the time in which we live. Indeed, we sense that today’s contemporary artists still grapple with the same problems inherent in all societies.
Magazzino Italian Art’s mission is to create further recognition of Post-war and Contemporary Italian art in the United States through its exhibitions and programs. It houses an extensive library of books and archival materials available for scholars and students or anyone conducting research in this field. We search for the work of Italian artists that can resonate in any society.
The work of Luciano Fabro was able to initiate a dialogue with the great artistic tradition and with the pillars of Italian identity. Our enduring interest in Fabro’s work arises from our firm belief that it illustrates the beauty of man’s capacity to create, and, in doing so, also celebrates the mystery of our shared humanity. It is thanks to his genius, courage, and exquisite sensitivity that contemporary artists are compelled to study, explore, and be inspired.
NANCY OLNICK is Co-Founder of Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring, NY