Entering the space of ChertLüdde, the course is immediately obstructed by two giant red cones extending through and bending around the gallery rooms, activated by the architecture’s idiosyncrasies. Franco Mazzucchelli’s inflatable sculptures – which take the form of flexible installations and more site-specific wall-based objects in the current exhibition, Pneuma – both adapt to and manipulate the spaces they inhabit. Through a quasi time-based, though physical medium, the works hold the potential for swift and perceptible deterioration – the remains persisting as records of atmospheric and temporal effects. They are blatantly temporary accouterments, yet at times are instilled with a hint of the elegance and grandeur of architectural ornamentation. It’s a playfulness that is typical of Mazzucchelli’s work, and which is emphasized by the color palette and plasticized sheen of the surfaces, in tandem with the material’s characteristic lightness.
Image taken in a previous show of Franco Mazzucheli.
The Bieca Decorazione (Pure Banal Decoration) series, which comprises multiple iterations of square canvases fitted with PVC inflatables that bear variously inscribed geometrical patterns, is featured as standalone pieces in bright colors – as sculptural, abstract paintings – throughout the gallery’s two levels, as well as a full-wall installation of black ‘tiles’ in another room. This larger installation presents an upended, exaggerated sense of ornamentation in a form akin to that of an elaborate coffered ceiling. More of an embedded architectural element than supplemental interior decoration, it is no less gratuitous in its inflated sense of embellishment, which points to the inherent artifice of manufacturing an environment. Through their flimsiness and visible ephemerality – highlighted by the plastic inflation valve that is plainly positioned on their surfaces – the permanence, sophistication and authority of monumental architecture is undermined, despite the sense of weightiness suggested by the all-black construction. This sentiment is reinforced even more so by the use of gold leaf in another piece in the series, which further illuminates the objects’ absurd nature.
To be full of air suggests being full of nothingness, or talking without saying anything – in essence, to lack substance. That air itself is listed as a material of the work in the exhibition checklist concretizes a particular conception of fabricating and filling space, while leaving it open. Air, space, and the architectural structures that give them shape, in turn, are underscored as communicative devices in their relationship to the bodies that pass through and inhabit them.
The sculptures’ relatively soft physicality and capacity for fluctuations lend them a quality analogous to bodies in their own right – almost as living, breathing organisms – particularly in reference to the large-scale red cones, which wrap around the space, bending and gesturing like a set of limbs. The series of curving lines in the inflated surfaces, meanwhile, seem to articulate through a system of symbols – enacting their own communicative gesture. Mazzucchelli’s coding of language has appeared elsewhere, for instance, in titles such as ‘A to A’ – which serves as both an acronym for ‘Art to Abandon’ and a phonetic play on ‘a toi’, meaning ‘to you’. The dual meanings embedded in this abstraction and amalgamation of language are distinct, but also connect and build on one other. Through the interplay of these physical characteristics of language, communication becomes obscured and patterns of perception are upended. It is this focus on the physical that unfurls throughout – in the physicality of the space, the body, the canvas – wherein the various elements reconstitute their presence through interactions, while yielding and remaining receptive to outside inflections.
Until 14 April
Images: Courtesy of the artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin. Photo credits: Trevor Lloyd.