"Angelo Garoglio and Medardo Rosso", by Giovanni Romano
Rosso took very careful photo shots of his own works, fixing an ideal vantage point to be privileged above all others, and cutting and reassembling his prints in such a way as to emphasize the dynamic effect of his shots. Angelo Garoglio has taken part in a similar operation with an opposite goal: he has approached the sculptures by transcending the limits the master had foreseen, at the risk of making certain details unrecognizable, and has shattered the taboo of "not circling round" the works. In pursuit of what? Possibly the secret moment in which form melts into a "trick of light." I believe that through his photographs Garoglio is practising a form of critical analysis based on images, rather than words, which can deeply influence our understanding of the sculptor's work: who wouldn't like to be able to describe the enchantment of Femme à voilette? Taking close-ups of Medardo's works is a special way of appreciating their poetic value without yielding too much to personal emotions; the photo camera serves as a filter, enabling each revealing image to emerge as if by chance through a guided encounter leading to an unknown outcome. It is difficult to define Garoglio's pursuit, his foreseeing of an abstract and enticing form that is always present in things yet waiting to be brought to the surface. He has long pursued this by photographing the magnificent arabesques delineated by the dry plants from the Sella herbarium in the Museo delle Scienze in Turin; he has found it in the soft veins of quarry stones.
When speaking with Garoglio, one name that often crops up is that of Degas, particularly on account of his devastating photographic portraits, more like portraits of ghosts than of people. Garoglio too must be targeting some of his ghosts through the long poses adopted for Medardo's works, with minimal variations. He is not keen on the expression "sequence of images" and prefers "variations," although I struggle to grasp the difference he wishes to highlight. The term "variations" perhaps emphasizes the fact that the work remains still before his eyes and that the only things that vary are the inclination of his gaze, the long posing time, the lighting level, the depth of the field, and the effects achieved by reflections. For Garoglio the term "sequence" instead possibly implies a change in the subject as it moves across space, whereas the dialogue he establishes with sculptures is based on "pointing" and the whole acquisition process consists in the activity of the eye waiting outside. With very few exceptions, Garoglio's shots are always in black and white, which according to him is "closer to drawing than painting," a highly revealing statement when it comes to his own way of looking at Medardo's art. We need only consider here how much has been said about the sculptor's relation with the Impressionists, which is to say with the world of colours; but equally worth exploring would be his relation with photography, with its power to fix the visual impression of forms, in Rosso's years, not yet a dazzling iridescence of colours.
Glaring brightness is not for Garoglio: his gaze is an enveloping and muffled one based on low, flickering lights. It is closer to Rembrandt than to Vermeer, with all the corrosive aspects Rembrandt's work entails. Garoglio's restraint in his own talent as a painter has driven him, his works on Medardo aside, to focus on a unique series of operations centred around quarry stones, in the search for naturally occurring marks, panoplies of colour and vibrations of light that as such rule out any expressive choice on the painter's part. Colours, defining traces and lighting are to be found in the matter you meet day after day. All the artist's hand does is free these by carving, lightly touching or corroding the surface of travertine or "Persian red." The artist's skill consists in intuiting this potential of matter and engaging with it, as though closely working with the grand and mysterious language of creation, with its hidden alphabet.
When gazing at Madame X it is all too easy to conjure Cycladic sculptures and minimalistic Japanese figurines. Curiously enough, in some of the shots on display this formal similarity emerges quite explicitly. One may yet again talk of a subtle critical confirmation, of "imaginative" criticism, as I have already mentioned, and recall Medardo's unique antiques collection, comprised of both genuine items and fakes, some of them even crafted by Medardo himself. Artists have been known to copy and forge works to steal the formal secrets of those who came before them, and Garoglio's photographs help trace the concealed origin of some of Medardo's choices. I believe it would be wrong to fully embrace the sculptor's later boutades against the tradition of antiquity: while they served a necessary purpose in a contingent polemic, the very fact that he spared Egyptian forms gives an idea of the kind of work of selection he operated with regard to the past. Today's photographs shed light on the matter by creating a productive short-circuit between Medardo's language and Garoglio's visual persistence. While we are used to discussing the matter through the language of criticism, Garoglio is more at ease using striking pictures from Medardo. When talking with the latter's admirers, he would rather accompany the pictures with music than words, and the melody would have an eastern ring to it.