And Galgani’s art, in particular.
If you stare at the abyss long enough, the abyss stares back at you. Nietzsche
The lack of philosophical, aesthetic and even cultural foundations is the most emblematic and increasingly common trait of what is widely meant by “contemporary art”.The rejection of history (simplistically equated with the sum of experiences considered past) seems quite self-serving. Even when there are antithetical expressions or radical languages, the desire to create a tabula rasa, to destroy what came before, has often been an obvious manifestation of the inability of many artists to achieve such lofty, aristocratic heights. For example, this was how Rafael and Caravaggio (with an approach not irreverent, but stupid) touched the sacred images by Botticelli and DaVinci, reinventing them as backgrounds/dustbins for unspeakable oddities of objects and cloying juxtapositions of color.
In contrast, Giulio Galgani has always understood how painting, and art in general, is something different. His love of the classics of his native land (for the great old masters (Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca) that the highest echelons of an imagined, ideal tuscia electa, were immediately plain to see in his works that came out with his debut almost two decades ago.These works were imbued with a primativism ahead of their time, in which if we look closely we can still see the alignment of many of the specific qualities still inherent to his current work.
Yet, soon, this original, versatile artist’s effervescent temperament felt different urgencies,based primarily on that sort of virtual theatre that has become our everyday lives. Galgani’s interest and attention focused on social and cultural phenomena that had been the most fertile concern of North American urban graffiti art that quickly rose in the mid 1980s, thanks to two authentic figures, Haring and Basquiat.
On this point, it is worth emphasizing that the complexity that continues to free Galgani’s work has an additional, interesting convergence in its conceptual solutions that evoke Jean Dubuffet’s Art Brut, which can be distinctively perceived in this febrile proliferation of forms and signs that evoke dark, anxiety-evoking fears. The expressive independence that Galgani gained at the start of the new century works through inventions, as we might call them, that were anything but eccentric. The progressive establishment of wittily allegorical subjects, like the Etruscan and
the Golems, heirs of Marino Marini’s archaic plasticism and Giuseppe Capogrossi’s abstractism, as well as eloquent testaments to a temporality between old and modern, now informs the recondite fascination of more than just his sculpture, where Galgani had a chance to show ever more openly the rich substance of his talent (through to the exclusive Forms cycle). Though, of course, with different interpretation and implications,this converges into the evocative side of his painting, within his “Free Canvases” and “Milled Pieces” that pre-dated the important advent of his “Geopaintings”.
In many of these singular compositions, there remains the jesting flavor that grew during their long-considered genesis.There is an echo of the artist’s critical thinking, the sardonic tone that exudes from their very titles (The Slaughter of the Happy Employees, I’m Quitting Tomorrow, The Hut of the Undigested Mediocrities, a tangible expression of humor that seeks to be cathartic in relation to the bewilderment caused by a reality to which we wished we did not belong.
This is also so of the Free Canvases, free from human conventions and art’s habits; free to grasp how hard it is otherwise to express and avoid upsetting unstable balances. They are free to tell the story (The Exploring Insect in Language’s Atypical Arrogance) and to tell, as Galgani does in The Other Side of Me or in Parachuted into Childhood Dreams, after the disconcerting discovery of how much we don’t know lives in us (A Thousand Three Hundred and Eighteen Breaths).
This is definitely our art. It is Tuscan, more than it is Italian, because within it is the “religion” of craft, of bold and very noble alchemy, of someone who knows the secrets of the craftsman and continues, deep down, like the illustrious ancients, to be one. It is the art of one who knows the sickle is an elective symbol like a tire, and nails, and like barbed wire.They are a story that is silent, but no less persuasive, of a reality as painful as an exposed nerve.
“Artifices of the Essential”, to borrow from the title that Galgani gave to one of his most incisive Milled Pieces. It is as if to say, in the era in which we find ourselves living, the oxymoron is often the best provision for a journey to understand the paradoxical, intricate dimensions of art, and, ultimately, of life itself.
Florence, January 2012.