Antony Gormley, Another Time XV, 2011.

Antony Gormley

San Gimignano, Italy

Galleria Continua

San Gimignano, a historic town in the heart of Tuscany, recently hosted an absorbing exhibition of new and older works by Antony Gormley. At the heart of the show was Vessel, a site-specific work conceived for the former theater and cinema that forms the central part of the labyrinthine Galleria Continua space. Made from 39 interconnecting rectangular steel boxes, the structure interpreted the town’s medieval skyline as a reclining male figure. Four other new works filled the first room of the gallery, exploring how bubbles coalesce to create cloud forms. Here, the principles of natural growth and structure are applied to the body. These sculptures were complimented by Sum, made from a network of solid iron polyhedral forms arranged on the floor. In this work, Gormley uses the formal purity of Modernist abstraction to evoke states.

Antony Gormley, Vessel, 2012. Cor-ten steel and steel screws, 370 x 2200 x 480 cm

Two marble figures, installed in the garden, test the evolution of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, transforming bone, skin, and muscle into compositions of geometric crystalline rigor not dissimilar to the structure of marble itself. Gormley’s vision of the body is inspired by tradition, but at the same time, it reflects new knowledge about, in this case, the sub-optical properties of matter.

For 20 years, Gormley has investigated space and time using the human figure (usually an iron cast of his own body) as a unit of measure. In San Gimignano, his iron figures quietly invaded streets, squares, gardens, and the top of a tower. For Gormley, the figures in Another Time, as well as their predecessors, are “empty,” “meaningless” forms – mute units of measure designed to consider space and human identity. Only viewer reaction – typically in the form of silent dialogue – gives “meaning” to these clones. Realized in collaboration with the local municipality, Another Time offered yet another example of how public sculpture has abandoned its commemorative roots. In Gormley’s hands, the human figure becomes a reflexive field that stimulates self-awareness while encouraging deeper investigation into our individual and collective position in the larger world.

– Laura Tansini