Dear catastrophe: Alessandro Costanzo, sculpture as form, as space

2021 | Lorenzo Madaro

“We’ll wave our x-rays so as not to misunderstand each other
We’ll draw bulletproof vests on ourselves
We’ll build absurd monuments to our departed friends
And come see the deserts advancing
Drinking every night
They’ll use rain clouds to remove your makeup
You and I will discover other Americas
That they’ll fire more people from the call center
That they always screw us over
That they always screw us over
That they always screw us over
That they always screw us over

Dear catastrophe,
Fingerprints and night patrols
Chasing moths
And the comets like you
Among the love letters written on a computer
Then we’ll begin to shake like California, darling, in our separate rooms
Nailing the stars
Declaring wars
To write on walls that you think about me rarely
That they always screw us over
That they always screw us over
That they always screw us over

That they always screw us over.”

The Lights of the Power Station,
Dear catastrophe (For now we will call it happiness)

Accumulare il deserto [Accumulating the desert] is, above all, an investigative space on the very roots of sculpture and its specific declinations of meaning, sometimes unforeseen, able to establish an immersive relationship between observer and work, between the steps of those who observe and the plastic dimension of the sculpture.
“Alessandro Costanzo’s sculpture is one that concentrates above all on a profound investigation into the very confines of the language, in its material aspects but also in the specific weight and its positioning in space. Thus the artist verifies various techniques, coming to orientate himself on an exhibition display – an environment in which the floor has been covered by layers of wadding – capable of enveloping his sculptures in a sensual suspension. And so the ceramic structures appear, alluding to an ancestral dimension, dimension of the illumination of a possible south, in which folklore meets its reckoning with the quotidian and the dimension of the festival faces up to the intimate and domestic dimension. The imaginary of the illumination – coming ideally from those ephemeral apparatuses that in the 1600s, in this land too, brought dreams and conflicts of a power onto the scene – is the inspiration behind the ceramics selected by the artist for this personal exhibition.
The show highlights Costanzo’s conceptual and formal declinations through the exhibition of other recent works that bring to the scene, with a rigour coming from minimalism, his concentration towards a sculpture that inspects its own perimeters, the relationships between soft and impenetrable elements, without ever losing sight of a route that is never narrative, but is always concentrated on the reconstruction of the very perimeters of the dimension of doing.
But, on observing it profoundly, this exhibition is actually one large installation made up of several elements, but above all it is one big work that aims at including the public in the very dynamic of the existence of the work. With the passage of the public, the landscape of wadding will change, experiencing constant metamorphosis, colour, but also consistency, irrevocably transforming even the perception of the individual plastic elements.
Wadding is also used in the small and large works made with net-structures, frames of various sizes that hold within them overlapping layers of white or painted cotton. It is a sculpture that fully experiences its wall dimension, interfacing with the walls through a direct relationship. Costanzo’s sculpture does not want to have perimetral boundaries, but to decline its own specific weight in another and open dimension, capable of modifying spatial and intimate perceptions.
One finds a dual substantial aspect in Costanzo’s most recent research: on the one hand, there is a definite will to look into the intrinsic structure of sculpture as a medium, into its autonomous and self-sufficient nature; on the other hand – and this happens in the case of this exhibition meant in its installation dimension – a definite and uninterrupted will emerges to change and structure the spaces in which he works through the medium of sculpture and a meditated planning, a herald of procedural outcomes. Costanzo’s practice is then one that intends to intentionally face up to the environment in which the sculpture exists and acts, through relational dynamics, visible and imperceptible, which constitute the starting point for the construction of a further space of action, in which the public is invited to move, relating to the form and the volumes of the sculpture itself, as well as of the place in which it is practiced. Sculpture serves to recognize those places, to experience and study them. And a scrap of material has the potential to become a starting point for a change, for a substantial and an irreversible transformation, with the indispensable direction of its creator, who each time positions it according to modalities that adapt to the same space.
For Costanzo, the reference to sculpture is necessary, his link to it is also to be found in the study of a series of practices that have spread, particularly since the 1960s, in certain geographies. When sculpture has totally lost its figural connotation to become pure self-sufficient and free-standing form, structured in a given space, the plastic medium and materials have become preparatory devices to a reformulation of real space. The primary forms of Minimalism – then declined in multifaceted versions, also in other areas of intervention – have implied a decisive revolution, glorifying the absolute value of form and matter within a given place. Carl Andre – in a dialogue with Barbara Rose published in “Art in America”(1965) – summarizes this shift, ensuring that “Instead of sculpting materials, I use materials as means to sculpt space.”
The new revolution starts from here.
Within this dichotomous and persistent relationship of connection that exists between form and space, a destabilizing and extraordinary debate develops, even on a properly theoretical level. The artist who in Italy has had a primary role in this field – also from a theoretical viewpoint and in pioneering years – was Nicola Carrino, according to whom “Sculpture is an operation of change, indispensable instrument of the continuous occupation and dimensioning of space.” As Franco Sossi highlights in his Luce Spazio Strutture (1967), the assumptions of these experiences can be found in the Constructivism of the 1910s.
These compressed operational references help contextualize the incipit of the discourse on sculpture traced by Costanzo in his most recent works.
For the artist, sculpture is preparatory to a procedural dimensioning of space, one understands this from the shred of illuminations that redesign the environment seeking relations with corners and interstices.
The space thus takes further shape through the modulation of the work itself, so the sculpture is complete in its entirety once it occupies the space in which it acts.
The form of the sculpture is, therefore, an autopoietic device that is generated in the studio, structuring itself however in its entirety – and this is the difference with the minimalist experiences, in which the plastic module lives its self-sufficiency and is created in the studio – in the totality of an exhibition space, which is something abstract and predetermined, but available for a transformation. Sculpture therefore becomes a language that generates experiences, a prelude to a further architecture compared to the one with which it relates, but it is also a language that exists only in relation to an environment. It is the work itself that contains the space, creating it.
Choosing a specific material means making a choice, foreseeing and designing the work beforehand, also expecting the perception that the viewer will have before it in the space and in the autonomous dialogical relationship with its density. “The choice of materials is already part of the idea”, Giuseppe Uncini commented in 1972. The profile of the single sculptures in Alessandro Costanzo’s exhibition is a precise choice linked to the will to construct forms that are both apparently light in the space of action of the work and consistent in their sculptural dimension.
These elements, related to each other, thus generate a new environment, so their function determines and detects space, fragmenting it and delimiting its very areas and perimeters, establishing a cognitive relationship that also includes some apparently secondary aspects.
They are all shreds of a mutant reality, pieces of a path of forms undone and reconstructed with the meticulous commitment of a systematic bricoleur, capable of rethinking the dear catastrophe.

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©️ 2019—2023  Alessandro Costanzo