26 June 2013

Until the 18th of August, at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva you can see the first retrospective of a well-known, albeit underrated, Italian artist: Gianni Piacentino.

With the exception of a brief stint in New York, Piacentino never left Turin, the place where he grew up, and where he developed his great passions/obsessions: engines, speed, technology, decoration, design. To this day, at the age of 67, every saturday he tries to beat his own speed record on his motorbike, riding at more than 240 km/h on the very same road.

Since his first exhibition in 1965, Piacentino has been working on the same elements – volume, color, arrangement – with a dedication that, if one considers the succession of styles and languages in the past four decades, is almost revolutionary.

The exhibition, curated by Andrea Bellini in Geneva, has the merit of underlining such coherence: while the lower floor displays works from 1965 to 1968, the upper floor of the space shows an overview of works which the piemontese artist has realized, from the ’70s to present day.

The starting point for the artist aùre primary forms, which are then personalized through variations in color and size. While similar, all works differ from each other. They are never sculptures intended as volumes, but as outlines.

Piacentino creates basic shapes. “I was interested in things as they came out, in their very concrete aspect. So, later, in ’67, variations were born on elements we’ve had in our heads for centuries, like a door, some tables, a window, a mirror, things which are enormously wear-resistant. I like to invent on ordinary things. I have realized them in inhuman, absurd dimensions; they always have a sense of uselessness, decoration and invention. I’m very interested in decoration because it’s the most typical element of an aesthetic taste which in design has been lost.”

More Richard Artschwager and John McCracken than Robert Morris, Piacentino is an anti-idealist who builds tables, poles, vehicles that are deprived of their functionality by negating their status as objects.

He is an anti-minimalist with futuristic design – chrome platings. A builder of machines for time travelling. A builder of colors. More simply, Gianni Piacentino.

Words by Luca Lo Pinto

Images by Annik Wetter