A selection of sculptures, ceramic pieces and works on paper by Italian sculptor, painter and poet Fausto Melotti are displayed for the first time at Hauser & Wirth
in London. Curated by writer and curator Saim Demircan, the exhibition places an emphasis on the theatrical within Melottis practice and includes works spanning four decades from the 1930s until his passing in 1986. As Demircan says, it wasnt until the early 1980s that he designed set pieces for the actual stage. This exhibition looks back throughout Melottis lifetime to consider how theatre conceptually as much as a dramatic art informed the artists own creativity.
Fausto Melotti is considered a pioneer of Italian art and is acknowledged for his unique contribution to the development of mid-century European Modernism. Coming of age in prewar Milan and living through the horrors of the Second World War, Melotti metabolized wartime devastation in his work by returning to Renaissance principles of harmony, order, geometry, and musical structure, which he integrated into a highly personal yet universally accessible artistic language that expresses the full range of emotional experiences in modern human existence.
Considering the South Gallery as a stage, a selection of Melottis teatrini (little theatres) provide a backdrop for sculptural works that allude to the artists sensibility for dramaturgy, storytelling and allegory.
The exhibition is designed in collaboration with artist Aaron Angell who has developed custom made pedestals for Melottis sculptural works, and a coved wall in which to display the teatrini. The show will be further complemented by a series of drawings and two-dimensional works in mixed media relating to the theatrical which provide further insight on Melottis process, including preparatory drawings for the teatrini series.
Saim Demircan is a curator and writer based in New York and Turin. Recently, he has curated exhibitions at 80WSE, NYC; Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, and Fridericianum, Kassel. He was the 2017 recipient of the Goethe-Institut New Yorks curatorial residency program, Ludlow 38 in NYC. Between 2012 and 2015 he was a curator at Kunstverein München in Munich. Previously, he curated a two-year program of offsite projects, as well as an exhibition of works by German artist Kai Althoff at Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea. Demircan has published on numerous artistic practices; his writing regularly appears in periodicals such as Art Monthly, frieze and Texte Zur Kunst.
Italian sculptor, painter and poet, Fausto Melotti is considered a pioneer of Italian art and is acknowledged for his unique contribution to the development of mid-century European Modernism. Coming of age in prewar Milan, and living through the horrors of the Second World War, Melotti metabolized wartime devastation in his work by returning to Renaissance principles of harmony, order, geometry, and musical structure, which he integrated into a highly personal yet universally accessible artistic language that expresses the full range of emotional experiences in modern human existence.
Before turning to art, Melotti studied music, mathematics and engineering disciplines that exerted clear influence upon his distinctive practice across subsequent decades. Melotti trained as a figurative artist, studying under Italys leading Symbolist sculptor Adolfo Wildt at the Accademia di Brera in Milan. There he befriended fellow pupil Lucio Fontana in 1928, and in the following decade shifted his focus to abstraction and a new non-objective art. Melotti developed influential friendships with the Rationalist architects of Gruppo 7 and the abstract artists who gravitated around Galleria Il Milione. With Fontana, he joined the Abstraction-Création movement, developing firm ideas about non-figurative art. Influenced by his education in engineering and music, Melottis first abstract sculptures were geometrical, and echoed the young artists academic training in order, rhythm, proportions and form.
Melottis ceramics of the 1940s respond to the pain, trauma, and despair that crowded his thoughts in the aftermath of the Second World War. Aerial bombings destroyed the artists studio in Milan and profoundly altered his artistic vision, precipitating a literal and symbolic rupture in his idealized pursuit of abstraction. His attention shifted to the craft and production of ceramics and terracotta. Rendered in polychromatic glazes, the enigmatic figures in these works illustrate the artists urgent and necessary return to figuration.
By the 1960s, Melotti had returned to sculpture, using a new language built upon delicate threads and thin sheets of brass, iron, and gold to express a more resolved and distinctly humanist sensibility. Delicately wrought, almost fragile constructions became enriched by a new narrative, dream-like and symbolic. These weightless works resemble aerial drawings incorporating space, air and transparency. His later work of the 1970s and 1980s is characterized by rhythmic geometric forms with an underlying humanist narrative that curator Douglas Fogle describes as quivering just on the threshold between the solidity of figuration and the immateriality of abstraction.