"Lumen and Lux" by Pino Mantovani 2014
From Silvio Fuso and Matteo Piccolo to Maria Fratelli and Giovanni Romano, all those who have dealt with Angelo Garoglio's photography dedicated to Medardo Rosso's sculpture (experience started in 2008 for Civica d’Arte Moderna, Milan, and continued in 2012, with “Disegni di luce” at Cà Pesaro in Venice - and that will not end soon: this Turin-based exhibition will be followed by one held at Ricci Oddi in Piacenza) agree on the fact that, in such case, photography establishes a relationship with sculpture that is not focused on depiction, memory and documentation, but is about poetic correspondence and in-depth analysis, as long as it is not deemed as a mere explanatory caption but rather a provocation, using new tools and renewed sensitivity, for highlighting further features, meanings and values. And, moreover, it was right Medardo Rosso who had interpreted the understanding of art both as a compromise and as a compromising relaunch. His curious collections mixing originals and copies, copies of copies and "original copies" are proof of this; repetition through variations of his own works, which are never reproduced mechanically but always undergo critically active interpretation and bear an even aggressive personal mark; the use of photography for orienting, putting into relation, and stimulating sculpturally processed shapes, to be fully (re)experienced beyond the material statement: as art, to him, was vital current, perpetuation and expansion of emotions through a work of art.
I would like to analyse the sympathetic conflict between the two artists.
The exhibition at Galleria Don Chisciotte in Turin is centred on Enfant juif, in a version unknown to the drafters of the general catalogue, yet undoubtedly authentic as it is accompanied by an affectionate letter from Medardo Rosso to his Turin-born friend Wanda Celli Artom (see fact sheet). Within the sculptor's limited iconography, the enfant theme is particularity significant, and connected with the moving figures displaying their feelings - especially melancholy and laughter, from smile to liberating laughter -, able to expand like a wave to the body and the setting, and to vanish as mysteriously as they started off ( clear for the yet still relentlessly material Futurists, and even Leonardo had already subtly considered the matter, along with his close and future successors). On the other hand – yet it might be the same - I just cannot not suppose that l’enfant (the child, the naughty boy, the little girl, the puer, the gavroche, the boy) represents the first surfacing of shape from undifferentiated magma, hence the beginning, not of matter, but of image and life, of life in image, of image as life, sheer vital force. If this applies to Medardo, between Impressionism and Symbolism (beyond history, between impression, here and now, and original universal symbol), I have the feeling that Garoglio's shots focus on the same point, not exactly because moved by the delicate features, or by the innocent tender expression (which had already made the sculptor suspicious), but rather because attracted by its kind of telluric nature that, even following fragile instant adjustment, continues being threatened by the same forces that have made it possible, but not irreversible. So, Angelo's interpretation of the childish face, to whom Medardo provides all the justification evidence (none of the best German Romanticism names could have provided stronger evocative effectiveness), has a strong dramatic component.
If anything, it is tone to be different: soft and fluid in sculptural modelling/modulation as well as in shooting stage for the first author, bordering on blur or elusive thickness; uneven and discontinue, sculptural, is the luminous expression by the second author, both when aimed at extreme focus and when daring a slight blurry effect (never generic, though). Colour differs: fair and transparent, as his beloved wax, for Rosso (capable of evoking the full colour range); centred on the contrast between black and white, in accordance with the grey range, in Garoglio's frames (who, when exceptionally using colour - as in a photo series dedicated to Milan’s Puer - chooses a fiery brown or a warm ochre, maybe inspired by a chromatically indecipherable lava flow rather than by the intention to imitate wax or patina on bronze and plaster; yet, a sculptor friend points out to me the great role of heat in wax modelling, together with the chemical / physical, alchemic provocation in patinas). Drawing differs: in Rosso’s works it never creates partition lines, clear profiles, enclosed figures; while with Garoglio it incises, cuts, drags on asperities that reveal deep surface complications and multiple planes (still, they keep saying that photographers just report the existing). Distance differs: according to Rosso it is kind of remote, dreamy, engrossed in the indefinite thickness of a material and emotional atmosphere; for Garoglio it is extremely close, so clear to be crude (though vision, and not vue, for both). Involvement differs: modellers express their sensitivity directly through touch, which is acknowledged and conveyed in real time from matter to the synthetic eye of the artist first, and then to that of the observer; photographers interpose a filter between themselves and objects: in fact, while keeping the natural eye at a distance, the mechanical eye investigates matter, including the whole space within the shoot frame. The lens attacks the figure, which responds by saturating space: nothing noteworthy happens outside, or better, anything happening outside becomes noteworthy only once it is sucked in; centred details lack in so-called objective measurement, to such an extent that a fragment, a detail must effectively represent, within its limits, the limitless nature of the whole.
I have stressed, with some clarification, the differences, as it is right the awareness of difference that generates and sustains the dialogue between the two artists: like discontinuity supports the continuity of live works. I am not asking myself if Garoglio's photography interpretation is consistent to the sculptor’s intentions expressed by the sculptural object, and by the original frames and the written or oral statements by the same, I am rather wondering if the model can endure the provocations of interpretation, and whether the interpretation is up to the comparison with the reference image. Tension shall be further investigated and can, in turn, add sense to the two, generously opposing parties. Tension is especially recognizable in the different/converging use of light (female, as generator, "maximum energy"; according to Rosso as well as to Garoglio).
In his enfants, Medardo Rosso endows light with substance by using the "nature" of wax: yet it is not the nature of wax to rule, it is rather the modelling process, which unlocks the potential of light from wax (through wax), like cuts enhance the brightness of diamonds, or motion stimulates the iridescent sheen of silk. Photography fits right where the miracle happens, somewhat revealing it by using, like a bolt, the evidence of the quantity and type of asperities, which the instantaneous/exhausted processing has triggered to stimulate light variance. Therefore, photography carries on the process of overcoming - deleting - matter in light. Yet, while Medardo alters his own photos (taken and checked by himself), changing the image by dissolving light thickness and weight (the invasive lux, anima mundi: blinding in Enfant au soleil, which can reverse into black against the light, or , in Enfant juif , reduced to captivating hues of shade, of "being in the shade", recommended by the author to his friend Wanda in the letter accompanying "his boy"); Angelo stresses the mysterious essence of the image "exaggerating" the impact of light on the uneven surfaces, focusing on the lumen, “the energy radiated on the bodies reflecting it ”(Gino Gorza), to achieve a "thingness" that is kind of absolute, noun-like in all respects, and therefore "unnatural".
It occurs that the two variants were familiar to his beloved Baudelaire (quoted by heart by Medardo Rosso, reached by Angelo Garoglio through Yves Bonnefoy), who indicates vaporization and concentration as two equally effective strategies that modernity - certain modernity - activates to achieve the same goal: the annihilation of the "real." Shade and light are especially effective tools for undermining the elementary evidence that positivism and realism have raised as a barrier to endure, in the name of clarity, emotional attacks and the fear of chaos.