Alessandro Gasbarri
  • Getting over retaining:
the lost language of Alessandro Gasbarri’s objects

    Getting over retaining:
    the lost language of Alessandro Gasbarri’s objects

I met Alessandro Gasbarri two years ago, in summer 2013. A self-taught artist with an education in classical humanities, then close to a law degree, he was showing his first solo exhibition in the interior  of a 16th  century gate in Velletri, a small town near Rome where he lives and works. In this first exhibition (“Phenomenology of listening and deconstruction of time: metals and thoughts”) Alessandro led me through ancient objects covered with rust, outcome of his personal recovering, around which were palpitating echoes of stories – bound with existential experiences- that the young artist was clarifying and through which he was leading us on the route across the displayed works.

At first I felt bewildered: was it still possible to make out of any kind of found object an artwork , without mediation, one hundred years after the original sin of the whole contemporary art history, Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle  wheel”, and after the innumerable feasts wherewith 60’s conceptual art gorged on us? Alessandro Gasbarri’s world consisted of reassembled propellers, out of use platforms, balances/steelyards, second hand wooden plates for peasant’s meals, carpenter’s saws, horseshoes assembled in powerful masses, and also iron objects, rusty, curved and  re-wrought. Yet, it seemed to me that a secret life pulsed in those anew  highlighted materials, combined with  a story. What was giving sense again to those objects, without a function anymore, erased from memory, and that could have at the most ended up in a Rural Culture Museum, dream of leftist Councillors of Culture in Italy during the 70’s?  

Once I got out of the exhibition, pondering what I’ve just being looking at, I realised that the nucleus of Gasbarri’s poetics is based on a coherent dialectics: the daily use, and the eternal disuse towards which these objects are on track. Alessandro intervenes in this space between two poles, finding his reason in the symbolic power of things. The fundamental point of his research is the German concept of “Aufheben”, “ getting over retaining”, meant  as  rebirth from a conservation( the obsolete object), of something that has  already changed( due to its unreleased reactivation).There is a possible escape in this operation, a path that allows to keep the memory of that object recreating it as a metaphor, shifting the sense.

Alessandro takes a platter, the wooden plate on which vinegrowers displayed community meals, and arranges on it some red painted electrodes, motionless, as for a sudden suspension of time in “Mikado” game. Does he want to simulate the thousands of possible directions  in the infinite space? Or suggest thought’s functioning guideline? The range of interpretation remains open but the title’s seal (“Deductive platter”) declares  his conceptual operation: an old object became a  instrument for thought, today, and  it managed  to   let us ”hang on” to its entity, that doesn’t only belong  to the time of memory. As it arises in “ Old-time mechanism”, in this research there is  the secret will to return the mysterious beauty of the inanimate that winds us, and also to find in the objects ( the propeller that screws itself suggesting the infinite spiral) the symbolic conception that may reveal the eternal mechanisms of Time and Space. There is a strong sense of social critic in these propositions , like in the cage that imprisons the “Reconditioned slaves”, today’s people enmeshed by media tools of consensus and the pervading law of profit,  or in the metal composition “The wound”, where a balance takes the human feature of a Prometheus chained at an iron slide in an eternal torture. In other cases assemblages seize a powerful worth exactly from their title, that hints an extension of both sense and purpose: like  for ”Authoritative iron”, in which is veiled present day’s tyranny of communication mechanisms, that have swiped away hearing in favour of vision.

This first exhibition, with an outcome of “partaking” and dialoguing  audience and the appreciation of the philosopher Tullio Gregory, was  followed by a second  one, held  in October 2014, in the spaces of the Scuderie Aldobrandini in Frascati. In this circumstance Gasbarri increased , not only spatially, his research, proposing installations on a massive scale.

In “The living-room of fifth metatarsus” the artist shows the visual evolution of the condition of an injured foot through the mise-en-scène of x-rays displayed on big panels, which describes, from the beginning of the trauma,  the progressive reassembling of the fractured limb. A reflection on pain, deep and acute at the same time, and on the annihilation of its possible sense, that contemporary society anesthetizes through the culture of the spectacle’s living- room: pain is a phase that has to necessarily be crossed, through the way  that leads to healing( “Occlusive bandage”).

In “Cyclic” a metal muddle of strings inside the funnel mind, assembled on a revolving disc, is maybe the plot for “deceitful thoughts”, which remove us from passion’s main street, forcing our life toward routine. At the end of an articulated tubular route, “Evolution in defecation” displays as a result of such an articulation a small earth heap, that alludes to faeces: what remains daily, produced by our body as a refuse, at the end of complex operations, that support our continuous evolution. In “Three dynamics, nine consciences” ancient hoops , beautiful in their serial assemblage, imprison an electric heater: are them our nine consciences  that prevent our energy to reveal itself in love, fear, destiny?

Again, marked by pain, Gasbarri’s reflection also comes to abstract painting: the chromatic explosion of three paintings,  “Social hypochondria. Good, Evil, War”( beautiful the third one), in which  the artist tests the remarkable expressive possibilities of pharmaceutical colours; the power of black, drenched with soot and burnt oil( ”Dreamlike story”) that recalls Alberto Burri’s “endless” black vortex; the character almost playful of the sign of “The solution. A movement’s geography” where, with stamps’ ink on a blotting paper surface, is created   a graphic lay-out whose effect is close to some of Twombly’s researches; beauty as the result of a random process, that in “Lightness” has the appearance of a cloth found on the way.

At the end of the route Alessandro Gasbarri entrusts his closing message to the installation ”Oversize load of regenerated conscience”: a tyre on a trolley alludes to a renewed awareness, which is possible only “taking care” of oneself, of the others, of the world. Repairing and subliming body and soul, against the agony of using, consuming and throwing away. Such an awareness really marks the “oversize ” load towards regeneration.

Like objects belonging to a lost world that conserve themselves in the memory turning into something else, this way – Gasbarri’s language seems to be affirming- pain and uneasiness caused by society may be accepted and healed. Used for rebirth. Got over retaining .

Marco Nocca
Prof. at Fine Arts Academy of Rome