publication of the International Sculpture Center
The Game as a Narrative of the
of Alex Pinna
by Andrea Bellini
2000. Bronze and lamp,
6 x 8.25 cm.
seem like an Italian city. The austerity of the architecture, the fog,
the frenetic work pace reminds one more of a cold Northern European metropolis.
In Milan, people have no time to waste, and they are definitely in no
mood to fool around: the financial centers set their rules, political
potentates organize their meetings, the fashion elite coolly set the laws
of style for the rest of the world. In Milan, everything seems to fit
together perfectly, to be part of a superior order, a complex system conceived
to function at optimal speed. It is no surprise then that this atypical
Italian city is one of the principal art centers in Europe, a fertile
and experienced marketplace with some of the countrys most important
galleries (Massimo De Carlo, Studio Guenzani, Marconi). In the last 10
years the city has been the undisputed protagonist of an important creative
wave in which a significant number of new artistic talents, critics, and
exhibition spaces have appeared on the scene. The first signs of this
ferment appeared in the mid-80s: exhibitions were organized almost
autonomously by artists in abandoned factories such as the Brown Boveri
factory, and shows were intelligently conceived by such people as artist-architect
Corrado Levi and Horatio Goni, artist and director of the Fac simile gallery.
From this feverish and diverse mix emerged young artists such as Stefano
Arienti, Maurizio Cattelan, Vanessa Beecroft, and others, all of whom
were dedicated to formulating alternatives to the dominant artistic currents.
These artists, working in a somewhat austere neo-conceptual vein, were
able to steer Italian art away from the somewhat decadent glories of pictorial
Neo-expressionism toward a language that was more focused and in step
with international experimental artistic trends. Many artists in this
period experienced living and working side-by-side, for example the Via
Lazzaro Palazzi group, already active in 1989, which included
Mario Airò, Liliana Moro, Bernard Rudiger, and others, and the
Via Fiuggi 12/7 group, active from 1996, which included such important
personalities as Giuseppe Gabellone.
1997. Oil on resin and talcum powder, dimensions variable.
In this context,
the artistic work of Alex Pinna (born in 1967) can be considered completely
original because it broke away from the strong Minimalist neo-conceptual
trends that dominated the Lombard capital. Pinna also studied in Milan,
at the prestigious Accademia di Brera; his artistic career began with
works that were closely related to the dominant neo-conceptual climate,
such as his subverted objects: a clock whose hands are too
long for the clock-face, a set square on which the millimeters are incorrectly
marked, and a 30-centimeter-long bed. These first works did not satisfy
him; they tended to blend in with the existing trends. The break comes
in the mid-90s, with a group of radically different works, evoking
childhood and cartoons. The first of these works is Fucked Bird (1994),
a sculpture representing the Road-Runner, killed by an anvil. This was
followed by more works depicting unusual situations with Tom and Jerry,
Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, and other fairy-tale characters. In this phase
the artist seems to be in a dialogue with Neo-Dada experimentation by
other artists, especially Italians such as Pino Pascali, one of the strongest
and most intense figures in Europe in the 60s. But whereas Pascali
turns to the childish world of games in order to interpret the contradictions
of the contemporary world in an objective but also lighthearted and gentle
manner, Pinna seems to accentuate (especially later on) an intimate, melancholy,
and non-confrontational element in his work. This characteristic places
his work outside of the Pop tradition.
Mi è sembrato di vedere un gatto (I thought I saw a pussy-cat),
1997. Cage and dyed feathers, dimensions variable.
In 1997 the artist
received national attention with a one-man-show at the nonprofit exhibition
space Viafarini, one of the most important in Milan, which functions as
an archive of young Italian artists (if you happen to be in Italy and
need information on contemporary Italian art, now you know where to find
it). The show featured the large installation Mi è sembrato
di vedere un gatto (I thought I saw a pussy-cat): a bird cage suspended
above 50 kilos of yellow feathers. In this version, Sylvester the cat
has won the battle against his astute and irreverent partner-in-crime,
leaving behind a desolate pile of feathers. On one side of the gallery,
above a row of evenly placed tables, Pinna created an incredible battle
between pencils and erasers, a kind of metaphor for drawing, work in the
studio, self-assurance, and doubt. These works, which evoke an infantile
and animistic imagination, revealas I said beforea lucid component
that is not completely Pop or ironic, but rather ambiguous and ungraspable
and therefore vaguely eerie. These works are like the ghosts of a game
that has not gone as planned, that does not have a happy ending. The characters
from this period are always on the verge of an identity crisis, even on
the formal level; they change form and become confused: a gosling with
a mouse-head, mice with long Pinocchio-like noses, and children with duck-feet.
On the other hand, this cartoon-world does not become an excuse to represent
a truculent, crazy world, as in the case of Paul McCarthy; it exists as
a poetic space in which a rebellious and anarchical imagination has the
upper hand, in which a difficult encounter between the self and the external
world is taking place. In fact, Pinna does not advance any theory of social
criticism or sociological condemnation; rather, his work is more like
a very personal, introspective testimonial. The battleground is the private
realm, the completely personal, post-ideological confrontation-clash with
a reality that presents itself as a compact, indifferent block.
Through such micro-narrative
and metamorphic sculptures as Believe Me (1994) and Mumble Mumble
(1997), Pinna claims access to the profound, in a deep, almost painful
manner. His Pinocchio installations (Pinocchio looking out at the sea;
Pinocchio held up by hundreds of tiny uniformed policemen) all relate
to this poetic/ affective dimension, this difficult contrast between a
free imagination and the hard reality of power and order.
In this sense one
could say that the recourse to the iconography of cartoons and fairy tales
is prologue to the narrative of the self. Games offer us a respite and
an escape; they protect us for a few moments from our own cynicism. This
is why Pinnas sculptures appear so clearly unmonumental and un-rhetorical:
they are characterized by an internal tone, a melancholy and gentle aura.
2000. Knotted ropes, dimensions variable.
His recent works
fashioned out of rope, inspired by the world of the circus (men on stilts
and tightrope walkers), suggest a whirlpool of notions of origins, an
emotional exploration of a folk world, in which individual motion is lost
in a remote collective realm, beyond time and comprehension. As in the
past, Pinna seeks a proximity between the public and his works, this world
swarming with worried, fanciful characters, poets and wanderers who dream
of hidden realities and hypothetical places. The installations he created
a year ago at the Monza theater evoke a flight of the imagination: flying
carpets from which dangle rescue ropes, long ladders suggesting a different
reality, a parallel plane. In his latest sculpture show in Fano, the artist
measured himself against a traditional material (Carrara marble), out
of which he fashioned another series of delicate metamorphic figures in
a constant state of transformation. These small, evocative memorial sculptures
again deal with the search for identity and the slippage between reality
and dreams, between real life and fables.
Slowly and patiently,
with great significance given to physical work and artisanal skill, Alex
Pinna narrates the hidden life of a contemporary self; in this, he reminds
me of the stone masons who carved depictions of a bizarre, obscure, and
dangerous world into the capitals and friezes of medieval churches. Starting
from a caustic and ironic imagination inspired by Pop and Neo-Dada, Pinna
has arrived at the ability not only to narrate, but to narrate himself,
and so obtain a complete individual autonomy, the kind of autonomy that
characterizes the work of authentic and lasting artists.
lives in Rome and writes for the Giornale dellArte.