This autumn Waddington Custot Galleries will devote the entire gallery space in Cork Street to a major retrospective of Italian artist Fausto Melotti (1901 – 1986). Featuring close to thirty works, the exhibition spans forty years of artistic production, from Diavolo (c 1945) to Carro delle Illusioni (1984).
Renowned for his delicate brass, terracotta and cardboard sculptures, Melotti’s works unite various movements of 20th Century Italian art: the Futurist embrace of modernity, the metaphysical yearnings of the Surrealists and Arte Povera’s inventive use of found materials.
Melotti’s early education in Florence introduced him to the art of the Renaissance, which would have a profound influence throughout his life. In the interwar years, Melotti became a leading member of the group of Milanese abstract artists including his lifelong friend, Lucio Fontana. Inspired by his engineering and music studies, Melotti’s abstract sculpture had a strong and pure effect on its viewers: the fragile looking brass and plaster pieces bring to mind a symphony of nature, geometry and music. You really do expect hear melodic sounds as you approach the delicate bronze structures. Albatross especially is exquisite, the seemingly haphazard twig-like rods perfectly capturing the fragile lightness of a bird, blown hither by the wind.
The enormous human suffering caused by the WWII compelled Melotti to introduce figures into his art. Works produced at this time – such as small ceramic stage sets like Teatrino (circa 1950) – were more narrative and reminiscent of miniature stage sets than his earlier output; their essence of fatalistic melancholy would remain in Melotti’s later work. Melotti’s little theatres urge the viewer to bring the fragments to life in their imagination. By the late 1960s, Melotti’s transformation of commonplace materials such as plaster and painted fabric linked him to the Arte Povera generation of artists.
Many of his pieces make the familiar appear strange: Lungo la Roggia (1982) for instance, is a delicate sculpture of clothes left to dry outside.
Till 20th December 2013
Waddington Custot Galleries
11 Cork Street
London W1S 3LT
Words by Anna Bang
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