Nicolò Masiero Sgrinzatto, installation view of “Caìgo,” 2023. Photo: Simon J. V. David, Courtesy the artist and Galleria Ramo, 2023

Nicolò Masiero Sgrinzatto

Como, Italy

Galleria Ramo

A view from the street offered the first hint that danger accompanied the works in Nicolò Masiero Sgrinzatto’s recent exhibition. The plate-glass window of the up-and-coming Galleria Ramo revealed a tall, wall-mounted metal object with the toothsome profile of a heavy-duty wood saw. Approached indoors, Sido (2023) exuded the chill demeanor of a sanitized precision tool, used, perhaps, to render carcasses. It tilted into the viewer’s space, little blue lights shining from every tooth. Incongruously, a tiny metal cuckoo bird sat at the highest point. When it periodically emitted a high-pitched siren, identity was further confused. It could possess a function, such as timing output on a factory production line. Or it could exist to amuse, whistling to announce the next ride on the great wheel at a Luna Park.

Touches of menace mixed with uncertainty percolated through the first room of the show. A rectilinear metal table stood on the terrazzo floor, with rollers instead of a normal flat surface spanning its width. Placed on top was an oblong box, also metal but with a lighter finish than the table. A strip mounted on the box supported two uprights, which shouldered a horizontally positioned, shiny brass tube. The tube itself was neatly perforated with a spiral of apertures like the holes in a flute. Was this a machine or an instrument, and, if either, what function might it serve?

So far, the construction (Tritera, 2023) relied for interpretation on simple geometric forms that progressively decreased in scale. Twenty-four much smaller cylinders set in a serried line below the brass tube continued this diminuendo while adding color—red interrupted by printed black letters spelling “DEMON.” Three quarters of the components rested on a mobile surface: just one unrestrained gesture could send the sculpture tumbling down or, at least, reorganize it into a chaotic pattern (if the parts were not rigidly fixed, a factor not shared with the viewer). Moreover, the little red cylinders turned out to be firecrackers—add a lighted match and the reach of potential alteration would escalate, possibly extending to the viewer’s anatomy. The source of ignition, however, was fortunately missing, the pyrotechnics left to conjecture.

A generous maker, Sgrinzatto allows the viewer’s imagination to move ahead of his personal intentions. It is, for instance, unlikely that he ever planned to destroy his creations. Instead, he appears to stress the latency of transformation, so that the speculative dimension contributes narrative tension to overt formality. The sleek, wall-mounted, silver missile form of Bolide (2021), for example, is the apogee of cold engineering. Docked in the gallery, it exuded mayhem deferred to whenever a mischievous hand might attach the nine-volt battery fixed below to the cables hanging from it. After all, the rocket was fueled, prepared for lift off.

A species of boyish glee flavored this sensation of potential mischief. Sgrinzatto offered the gratifying surprise of the slow reveal, inclining the experience from allusions of manufacturing to the thrill of the fairground. The two worlds are poles apart emotionally, but span the reality of a 30-something with a blue-collar background making his way in a society beset by low growth, high living costs, and limited expectations (a problem not exclusive to Italy). Dead-end jobs absorb energy, while leisure releases the imagination, the hope for change and transformation. Which is why the films of Federico Fellini would make an unlikely but pertinent companion. Like the setting of the director’s masterpiece , Sgrinzatto’s worldview is nourished on a genuinely popular culture, where dreams harboring potential and existential realities take shape and clash in the helter-skelter escapism of high-voltage entertainment.

This allusion was strongest in the second room, which amplified the changing rhythms of material, surface, color, and texture. Stepping into the space, viewers were enveloped by colored light, red and then blue, projected by a circle of small bulbs around the heptagonal face of Cargo (2023). The sculpture hung on the wall like a hybrid fitting, part industrial and part festive, akin to the electronic displays at fairground attractions. Plastic propeller shapes whirled like fans against a background of steel treadplate textured with the ubiquitous checkered pattern of workplaces, reflecting the light from inset lamps.

Sgrinzatto, who was born in Padua and studied at the Accademia in nearby Venice, completed his MA in 2018; he has mostly exhibited in the wider Veneto region. By titling this show “Caìgo,” a word in Venetian dialect used by boatmen when thick fog prevents navigation in the lagoon and forces them to tie up, Sgrinzatto evokes the spiritual fog that has come down over his peer group. For the duration, they anchor themselves between the dreams formulated in the bright lights of childhood playgrounds with jobs that provide stability, like Sgrinzatto’s work in a foundry. It leaves him a couple of days each week for the studio.

One final work implied that predicament. Elevated on a wall of the first room, the confusion of black synthetic threads in Gnaro (2023) resembled a nest, one from which the bird had momentarily flown (unlike many young Italians too poor to afford high rents). Sgrinzatto teased the threads from blown tires found discarded on the highway. Perhaps making something new from something broken feels like a motto for his generation.