Fausto Melotti

Fausto Melotti, “L’amore”, 1971 (detail). Fondazione Fausto Melotti collection, Milan. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

The artistic career of Fausto Melotti (Rovereto, 1901 – Milan, 1986) shapes up as a continuous process of questioning both form and matter. His vast output appears deeply diversified, with evident linguistic and material mutations from one decade to another, a symptom of his constant experimentation which drew on different sources, above all music. Harmony, balance and rigor characterized his sculptures from the 1920s when, after graduating in Electrical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, Melotti began his artistic research. At first close to Futurist circles, his work was marked by the encounter with Rationalist architecture, represented in Milan by Gruppo 7, and Lucio Fontana, with whom he formed an enduring friendship.

From pottery and ceramics to steel, from abstraction to figuration, all his work is characterized by the oscillation “between the material register and the mental impulse, between memory and research,” as Germano Celant observed. The line, rather than the volume, became the central element in his creations, made up of geometric forms and the relation between void and solid, so suggesting an implicit grace and lightness. “Art is an angelic, geometric mindset. It appeals to the intellect, not the senses. […] It is not modeling but modulation that matters. […] The foundations of harmony and the plastic counterpoint are found in geometry,” declared the artist.

The work in the collection, L’amore (“The Love”), by its title suggests sculpture’s aspiration to what are properly human feelings: based on the purity of the elements that compose it, in silent dialogue with each other, the work embodies an allusive sensuousness, thanks to which the abstract forms acquire an unexpected corporeality. As in many other works by Melotti, light plays a crucial role in animating and transforming surfaces, acting as the link between mind and matter, rationality and imagination, visible and invisible, process and final outcome.

In 1971, the same year as this work was made, Italo Calvino wrote of Melotti’s work in his book Lo spazio inquieto, emphasizing his sculpture as “vibrant stillness”, a term that perfectly describes L’amore as a combination between ideal aspiration and vital tension. Melotti’s linguistic versatility and his multifaceted activities were at the center of the retrospective exhibition that the Madre museum dedicated to the artist in 2011.

[Alessandra Troncone]

L'amore, 1970

Currently not on view

Fondazione Fausto Melotti collection, Milan. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

Installation view, in the context of "Per_forming a collection #4"

Courtesy Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.