Gianni Piacentino

Gianni Piacentino, Dark Prussian – Blue Portal IV, 1966/1967. Collezione Giuliani, Roma. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Gianni Piacentino, Dark Prussian – Blue Portal IV, 1966/1967. Giuliani collection, Rome. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

By combining minimalism of form with analytical procedures already conceptual in nature, in the mid 60s Gianni Piacentino (Coazze, Turin, 1945) began a research that merged with that of the protagonists of Arte Povera, with whom he participated in numerous group exhibitions including Arte povera più azioni povere in Amalfi in 1968. Starting from the exhibition Arte abitabile at the Galleria Sperone in Turin in 1966, when he shared with Piero Gilardi and Michelangelo Pistoletto the idea of an art that actually enters into the environment, Piacentino creates spare structures evoking everyday objects deprived of weight and volume.
Line and color have become the cornerstones of his output in recent years: while possessing a marked visual assonance with their primary structures of Minimal Art, Piacentino’s work differs from the works of American artists, by their “crafted” nature, eschewing the use of the industrial prefabricates presented by artists across the Atlantic. They are lacquered wooden structures, often reproduced in similar forms but distinguished from each other by the use of color, obtained by drawing on a range of over three hundred different shades. From one gradation to another, the choice of colors characterizes the work and makes each piece unique, insisting on its optical perceptual value and on the ambiguity between the real object and the “mental” object.
In a 1972 interview the artist declared: “I like inventing around ordinary things. I make them in absurd, inhuman sizes. There is always a feeling of uselessness, of decoration and invention […]. It was a work of softening forms, more typical of the furniture maker than the sculptor”. The starting point is the stretcher, an element still closely associated with paintings, which Piacentino isolates as an element in itself, even creating objects that enclose both the support and the painted surface. “From this idea, naively cultivated, of dismantling the stretcher – which I enjoyed coloring – I then passed on to a dilation of a part of it into the environment”, stated the artist.

Dark Prussian-Blue Portal IV, one of the works produced in 1966-67, is presented as a hypothetical entrance portal by drawing, measuring and defining a portion of the exhibition space with which it interacts. Abstract forms that look to concrete objects, “furniture” devoid of functionality (as Tommaso Trini described them), Piacentino’s works present a synthesis of architecture, sculpture and painting, looking at drawing yet retaining a self-referential nature that never goes beyond line, color, dimensions and positioning. By reconciling geometric plainness and the materiality of the object, the artist works on the gap between the idea of the form and its materialization in space, raising the tension between the intuition of the image and its physicality, as also in the subsequent series of Veicoli (“Vehicles”), purely ideal and therefore dysfunctional means of transport he has been making since 1969.