Pescheria Center for Vrsual Art
This year the Pescheria Center for Visual Art held an exhibition of works by two artists who have been prominent on the contemporary art scene for many years. The work of Luigi Mainolfi and Giuseppe Maraniello on exhibit in the beautiful loggia of the Pescheria reconfirms the persistence of sculpture’s specificity at a time when the field has expanded to the point that “sculpture” has become merely a name. Sculpture however resists; it resists with its specific language, with its ideas, with its own physiology, with its own procedure, rooted in the work of sculptors who have managed to preserve its identity as well as renew its language. The works of Mainolfi and Maraniello are proof that sculpture can still be vital when those who create it are strong, passionate personalities.
Virtually contemporaries (Mainolfi was born in 1949 and Maraniello in 1945), their parallel careers developed during the ’70s, when Conceptualism prevailed. Mainolfi turned to sculpture in 1976. He was one of the first of his generation to herald a return to the creative possibilities of technical and expressive
means. ln Mainolfi’s work, the generative capacity of forms determines the variety and richness of his expression. The constant progressive transfer of every creative acquisition to the following work is the dynamic that gives the artist’s work the concentration of inspiration and the range of accents and imaginative registers which make it so unique. His works possess a strong “fairytale” quality and a playful way of creating imaginary figures in constant variation between the high and low registers of language. Mainolfi’s sculptures have contributed to the contemporary art scene a mythical and telluric sense of form, inherited from an ancestral vision of a world aware of the deep mysterious links that bind man to nature. As Angela Vettese wrote in the catalogue of the 1996 Mainolfi exhibition “Oro” (“Gold”) at Claudia Gian Ferrari Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan): “Mainolfi does not wander around the labyrinths of the mind, but rather around those of nature…with a strong need to work following natural atavistic rhythms and system.”
At the Pescheria, Mainolfi has exhibited three works: Colonna Indecisa (1996, Undecided Column), a tall, thin terracotta column rising in precarious equilibrium, Nacchere puteoli (1991, Neapolitan Castanets), a work in steel; and Quelli che volcano (1996, Those who fly), a hyperbolic “nonsense” with no beginning and no end cast in iron. lts form changes each time Mainolfi arranges it. Unfortunately because of the Pescheria’s space limitations neither Colonna lndecisa and Quelli che volano could be arranged in their entirety.
Giuseppe Maraniello’s work explores and inhabits a middle ground between painting and sculpture in which the traditional opposition between the two exercises a regenerative power capable of giving new life to the imagination. lt is fascinating to observe how in Maraniello’s work painting and sculpture constantly attempt to exchange roles and then return to their own course with the certainty of their individual identities reconfirmed and strengthened.
ln 1978, at the beginning of his career, Maraniello painted two small canvases representing a flying kite. As Pier Giovanni Castagnoli states in the catalogue essay, the kite image contains the seed of Maraniello’s sculptural language, his very personal way of marking the space, of measuring it, of plowing through it and embracing it in a trajectory-all of which make the artists work instantly recognizable. Maraniello’s sculpture developed through the figures of the jumper,
the acrobat, and the diver, which reflect his interest ln a new spatiality, but also serve as archetypes (imported from the classical pantheon) in an attempt to recreate the conditions of the ancient world, when men faced life with the comfort of a multitude of idols, gods, demons, and metaphors. Over the years new signs and figures have enriched his language to include bows, arrows, spears,
boats, and spiders webs, while his sculpture has become both “form” and “story.”