Edoardo Piermattei

Appunti per un miracolo permanente
June 28, 2021 - September 4, 2021

Quartz Studio is pleased to present Appunti per un miracolo permanente, the second solo show in Turin by the artist Edoardo Piermattei (Ancona, Italy, 1992). The exhibition is accompanied by a critical text written by Cornelia Lauf. Piermattei has produced three new sculptures with the Quartz Studio space in mind. As explained by the artist, Asa Nisi Masa is a series of three sculptures erected to inhabit space and wear architecture. He states:

With Asa Nisi Masa, my painting practice, which for a long time has been focused on the architectural dimension, has drawn attention to the inhabitants of architecture itself – that is why I started building statues capable of inhabiting my studio and wearing my architecture. I have set aside the pigmented concrete with which I was familiar to experience the ductility of wax and the fragility of paper, in an attempt to stretch a skin over the statues, or rather, a memory of the skin where there is no body. It is indeed through the use of perishable and organic materials – wax, wood, paper, and hemp – that I managed to tear the statues away from their atemporal dimension and situate them in both space and time. Asa Nisi Masa is a nursery rhyme, a mantra, a prayer for the statues’ eyes to come alive. In the movie 8½ by Federico Fellini some children keep repeating it: they are trying to animate a painting whose eyes might disclose to them where a treasure is buried.

With Asa Nisi Masa, the artist makes himself heir to a great sculptural tradition of his homeland, the Marche, doing so with the material lightness of wax that suggests Merardo Rosso and the dream-like melancholy of Fellini's characters. This is an age-old yet very new way of experiencing the Italian tradition in which art has always been an expression of an environment that is geographic and mental at once. With Piermattei's Asa Nisi Masa, Quartz Studio is continuing its exploration of the concept of sculpture, a paradigmatic form of expression in Western imagery from the kouroi to the present day.

Notes for a Permanent Miracle by Edoardo Piermattei

In the Italian artistic landscape today, there are marked differences from its historic manifestations studied by all. Firstly, the contemporary Italian artist no longer works under protectorates such as the major families that once gave umbrage to figures such as Caravaggio. This tradition died out with the creation of a modern Italy, and its thorough demise was accelerated by the land reforms of the 1950s, which sought to redress historic wrongs, but at the same time, fatally crippled centuries of intelligent stewardship and the ancient tie between culture and agriculture. Today, the industrialists are the largest patrons, but it is a different kind of knowledge arrives at the kind of sapere, once handed down, from that handed down, generation to generation. A know-how that combined geometry with gastronomy, law with etiquette, with their representation in moral allegories, and symbolic warfare. In short, the ancient art of the commission.

A further casualty of industrialization is the tradition of the bottega, and this passing on of knowledge of the hand. Codes meant to protect against child labor, or the exploitation of workers, have done much to improve general conditions, both in Italy and beyond. But, say with glass-blowing traditions in Murano—if a youthful apprentice does not learn the trade by age sixteen (and hopefully well before), facial and hand muscles simply can no longer acquire the dexterity and techniques needed for this ancient art. The same goes for weaving in an effort to eradicate child labor in countries such as India, computer and cell phones are jammed into willing hands, and the result is that millenia-old embroidery and weaving techniques are currently being lost, in one or two generations. A bit like with dialects and languages. The weaving of carpets, for example, is increasingly shifting to war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, where access to the technology is still limited. Though there are exceptions in Italy, and increasing efforts to valorize and protect craftspeople and artisanry, the cataclysmic decline of manual trades is widely visible, other than than those most dedicated to luxury, and actively promoted by companies such as Fendi, Gucci, and the like. Ancient businesses, such as the Roman printshop Antica Stamperia Trevi, where Garibaldi’s visiting cards were printed, or the cobbler near Piazza Farnese, let alone the kind of dry-goods shops that once made cities such as Rome or Turin what they are—are on the wane or way out.

A revolutionary ready to breathe life into the cause of bravura has emerged on the Italian stage.

Edoardo Piermattei joins a small chorus of artists who are acutely aware of the world we live in today and are out to rectify what they can. In a deeply moral practice, we see a lament for an Italy that once was, the Italy of peasants, of puppeteers, the Italy of stage designers, the Italy of theater, of cantautori, of stucco-makers, gilders, mirror-makers, and of artifice. His work reminds us of all what we know of art, that it is an illusion and yet that it is the only reality that can change cognition. Art written large. Music. Poetry. Theater. Fashion.

Piermattei is so very interesting because he is superbly gifted as a draughtsman and artisan, and unlike many of his peers in a world that no longer judges technique, or beauty, he insists on bravura and bellezza as his own intellectual artistic terrain.

In the years that I have followed the work of this gifted thinker and maker, I have seen him develop from pavilions that take on the Baldacchino of Bernini, or the Scrovegni chapel of Giotto, ceiling frescos that chew on the work of Andrea Pozzo, or Baciccio, to more recent work, in which, quite immodestly, it is clear that he measures himself with no less than Michelangelo. And this is where and why his work is so utterly compelling to this writer. Like few other artists of his generation, Piermattei actually knows his art history, into the smallest detail. He is familiar with village chapels, and foreign Crucifixions, from an Umbrian Piero della Francesca to Matthias Grünewald. He skips around between Clyfford Still, Marc Chagall, and Paul McCarthy, studying each and picking those features which serve him best. Whether painting the inside of his storage ceiling, or creating a vineyard wine-cellar for a privileged private client, whether crafting strangely tragic aliases in the snow outside his childhood home in the Marche, or sculpting mannequins bearing architectural emblems on their heads – Piermattei’s is a practice deeply rooted in art. And that is what art is, that snake that must eat its own tail, that Moebius strip that dives into itself again and again, to reformulate, and in reformulating, ONLY in reformulating, creates something anew.

In the exhibition in Turin, at Quartz Studio, Piermattei proposes a virtuoso’s entertainment. A small group of enigmatic wax and mixed-media figures slowly turn on their pedestals. Their grotesque faces assume a universal appearance, and yet they are also caricatures. Each balances an architectural element on his head. Much as the celestial orgasms that Piermattei paints, with effortless compositional and coloristic mastery, here too are colors and textures that stem from the sewer rather than the sky. Piermattei’s unbending cynical optimism is in full evidence. Tackling the exhibition space as theater, the street and city as political arena and the future as the canvas, Piermattei still seeks to entertain us, with ancient modern puppets, moving figures, and a scenario more at home in Acitrezza at Carnevale time, than in the heady realms of our post-Conceptual moment.

Why? Why does he go against the grain to such a degree? Why not quote without making? Why make? Why muddy his hands and dirty his clothes? Why do the work himself rather than source it out and have it fabricated, in the great traditions of American art beginning with Minimalism? Because, in the politics of life and art that Piermattei believes in, there is salvation in the individual, and in the individual’s mark. There is dignity and there is poetry in the making and in the result. And the full corpus of history can be seen in the specific mark of one who studies, thinks, and knows. And this, today, is great art.

Cornelia Lauf, Ph.D., is an art historian and curator based in Rome.








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