A one-way dialogue between artists of different generations, in which the young testifies to the influence of the old

Patrick Tuttofuoco on the work of Medardo Rosso

“…When was the first time that you realized you wanted to be an artist?”

This is a question that you often get asked, and that I’ve always had difficulty answering… But thinking about Medardo Rosso, I think I’ve found my reply.

It was the fourth year of high school and I had the immense fortune of attending an art history course taught by Paola Mola. She was discussing the work of Medardo Rosso – specifically, his Ecce Puer. Listening to her describe the relationship between that form and its surrounding environment, I found myself for the first time moved by the thought of a work of art, and I caught a glimpse of how luminous the experience of an artist could be.

Since then, I have continued to feel a deep connection with the work of this formidable sculptor and tireless experimenter, ever wrongly associated with the Milanese Scapigliatura movement. Medardo Rosso, in fact, was a seminal figure for future generations, creating contemporary visions with incredible force. And it’s precisely his exceptional contemporaneity that always surprises me: there are elements of his work that still stand as paradigms for understanding the image of man.

Observing the formal aspects of his work, I’ve always had the feeling that all things and all people constitute a vibrant energy field in constant motion, and that the movement of one element is capable of influencing and enhancing the movement of the others, thus producing the vision of what we call “world.”

In the work of Medardo Rosso, what we perceive as real and physical matter is vibrating energy: namely, a non-form capable of reflecting everything and everyone. What derives from it is an image of the human being that is no longer concluded or closed upon itself (as a frontal portrait might be), but is rather capable of giving back this immense connection with others, in osmosis with the surrounding environment.

Fundamental, therefore, is the movement between the interior and the exterior of the individual, the relationship between his identity and what he becomes, in being fragmented, expanding, and dematerializing in the collective image. In this  “open construction,” a being is never seen as a unity distinct from others, but always as complementary to a larger organism; a fragment in a dialectic process of knowledge of what the world is and consequently of what we ourselves are, as products and reflections of that world.

I’ve always viewed Rosso's work as a threshold to cross or a path to follow in order to more thoroughly understand and interpret the multitude of signals that constitute our image of reality. In other words, a process of research into and comprehension of elements useful to the reconstruction of an image that remains as close as possible to what we perceive daily – an image, therefore, in constant movement.

The link between his work and our contemporary reality becomes all the stronger if we associate the reflections triggered by his pieces with the processes of interrelation between the identity of the single being and global identity, where technology accelerates the logics of dematerialization and transformation, remodeling the very concept of identity into something increasingly malleable and open.

Just as in quantum physics, where there are no stable or truly closed structures and where everything is constantly reacting, Medardo Rosso reproduces a human being whose image and matter fuse with the environment in a frenetic exchange. It is hardly coincidence that
he once said “Ce qui importe pour moi en art, c’est de faire oublier la matière” (“What matters to me, in art, is to make matter forgotten”). Indeed, his sculptures are constituted by “non finite” forms, which seem to suggest the presence of the world that surrounds them. Just like these sculptures, human beings today are nourished by a ubiquitous technology that collides with the spatiotemporal dimension of their bodies. It is in this sense that the very idea of existence comes into play, and with it, the idea of limit, space, sphere, ego, to the point of generating a multiple series of geographies and inhabitants of hybrid consistency. 

Today – once again in parallel with Rosso’s research – there is a splitting of identity (real, digital, social) contained in every single person; a splitting that is projected toward polarization.

If reality is not something a priori, but is constructed as a product of human activity, in a dialectical process, then the identity or the image of man is itself the result of a process of interpretation of the world and of other human beings. It therefore requires continuous reconstruction and representation, in an attempt to identify the individual not with a closed form but with one in constant evolution and dialogue with all others. I believe that this process is forcefully present in the work of Medardo Rosso, and that it in some way recounts the appearance of the spirit and the very essence of humankind. In doing so, it brings everything back to a timeless dimension that is easily relatable to contemporary logics and systems but that actually bears an absolute urgency, and leads to the emergence of a new consciousness and self-consciousness of man.

In this sense, Medardo Rosso is a unique figure, bearer of a prophetic gaze.

Patrick Tuttofuoco (1974) lives and works in Berlin. His practice focuses on the close relationship that exists between individuals and their environment, exploring notions of community and social integration. His work creates innovative imagined structures, architectural assemblages, films and animations motivated by the urban environment as a site of constant transformation. He has participated in numerous solo and collective shows internationally.