The Eroticism of Stone -The Sculpture of Ilaria Gasparroni….
There is a moment of breathlessness that takes place when one encounters the sense of blood and breath pulsating beneath the smooth erotic surface of marble, carved into perfection, an expression of eternal perfection, of artistic virtuosity so penultimate that it seems timeless? I think of course of the straining figures of Rodin, the eroticism of Bernini, and the supple heroic bodies of Michelangelo. These are of course icons of the history of art, expressive moments of classicism that endure, models for all student artists, and for those of us who continue to think about and idolize fine art.
So, what then does this mean in the context of contemporary art? Is something of such timeless appeal relevant to practice today? I would say that if work like this continues to stir the human spirit, then the answer is yes. And perhaps our love of such ways of mapping the human body may continue in the work of Ilaria Gasparroni, a young sculptor from Italy whose marble work takes its cues from the technical classicism of the masters while inflecting each work with a sense of the contemporary world, pleasure and contrast.
Much of the artist’s work pairs a perfection (of stone and craftsmanship) with a more broken or fragmented quality – the blindfold, the distorted image, etc. meant to evoke the hidden world of the emotional life of others, a place that she describes as where real beauty resides.
The work Una Rara Belleza (A Rare Beauty), 2016, is made of white Carrara statuary marble, wengé wood, with gold leaf. This work builds on the sad yet sweet iconography of the Virgin Mary, referring in part to “Madonna del latte in trono col bambino” by Jean Fouquet. Her mask is made of gold threads, the eyes are closed to the brutality of the world, there is a sense of detachment from what the artist describes as “the hell of living.”
Ilaria presents beauty that seems at first simply that. And yet, her work has depth and thoughfulness that we encounter while admiring the gorgeousness of her stone carving, an outward manifestation becomes a temple for contemplation….
As such, Ascoltami (Listen to Me), 2017 is made with a strangely beautiful intimacy from white Carrara statuary marble, a demonstration of the artist’s technique and precision, a moment of historic classicism. A marble ear rests on the pillow, signifying the fetus in utero whose primary connection is sound…the sculpture intended to be “an invitation to learn and to listen to the other….”
dí(s) doppio’ – morphé forma, 2016-17
The artist is interested in the idea of change, as well as the hidden side of self: suppressed consciousness, the world of the dream and even the play between morality and immorality. This double portrait like so much of the artist’s work invites self reflection, there is, in the two faces, a dialogue between the fixed and the fluid, depicting metamorphosis and change, and of course the concept of the double image –one carved in Carrara marble and the other in black Portoro.
In Praise of Madness, 2016
This portrait of broken stone and feet contemplates the complexity of the definitions of madness. There is a tragedy in this view of the world, a sense of timeless sorrow, paired strangely with sensitive study of human anatomy. In part, the artist refers to the pseudoscience of Phrenology and raises questions about the idea of deviance and normalcy, the artist suggests that wellness is not necessarily a static state, wishing for the sculpture to express “the volatility of being.” Carved from white Carrara marble, with wengé wood and gold leaf.
Diana e Atteone, Wherever I’ve been, 2015
Made of pink marble, walnut and silver leaf this sculpture functions as a metaphor for the unpredictable, the fatefulness of life and poetically refers to the story found in Ovid of Atteone who is transformed into a deer when he comes upon the Goddess Diana at her bath. Here we find perfection of the material and a purposeful fracturing…. evoking the mortality and vulnerability of humankind…
Dignity and Perseverance, 2013-14, is a modernist piece that uses the language of Brancusi in its juxtapositions of stone and wood. There is an artful balance of the qualities of sculpted marble with the texture and form of chestnut wood. The artist notes the piece refers in part to Egyptian death rituals and the myth of the Court of Osiris. The contrast of linear perfection with organic material and carved stone creates a sense of haptic delight…
Ilaria Gasparroni’s admixture of classic marble carving with modernist idioms has a timeless quality, the flawless beauty of each work suggesting quietly of an inner pain, a complexity that invites the viewer in, drawn to admire the surface, the texture, the contrast, creating a sancutary of stone, memory and echo.