Text for Ettore Spalletti, published on “Flash Art”, 2005
As I looked at the photographs…
As I look at these photographs, which document Ettore Spalletti’s simultaneous exhibitions at the Accademia di Francia (Villa Medici) and the Oredaria gallery, both in Rome, I ask myself which works came earlier and which ones came later. Attempting to answer this question is like following a road, a succession of footsteps, which could bring me more easily to the words I want to dedicate to his work.
As I ask myself the question, though, I realise how inessential it is. Chronology, and perhaps even the very concept of temporal development, seems to have no place at all in Spalletti’s work. The environment which arises from these two exhibitions of his doesn’t appear to be the result of an accumulation of works in succession, one after the other, but rather of a sort of simultaneous presence of flattened spaces and prospective visions, the former acting as backdrop, the latter as figure. Backdrop and figure are the elements necessary in order to speak of images, especially of those images which (like all images) are destined to tell us about something.
Throughout these two exhibitions, Ettore Spalletti tells us the story of a universe in perfect equilibrium, a sort of confirmation of all that which we already know and love: the terse, spring-like colour of the sky, before the summer heat which will stain it with the steam rising from the earth. The freshness of the source, which quenches our thirst and is worthy of being celebrated like a public piazza. The veil of make-up, applied thinly to the youthful cheeks of teenage girls, making them look like grown women. A straight column rising out of the diagram of a house, as if it were a ray of black shadow projected towards the sky, to remind the viewer (who already knows) of the forms within which we, as humans, live, love, suffer. A small room, filled with the light of midday, surrounded by regular windows through which you can see the sea, which moves, and we also are moved, and lose the certainty of our verticality…
These and others still are the ‘chapters’ of the story these Roman exhibitions tell, each one grafted into the other, like a new gem into an old tree-trunk. I already know how my words can be critiqued: Spalletti’s works are ‘abstract’ and, hence, ‘anti-narrative’. And this is the thesis which I (even beyond these works) don’t agree with because, on the contrary, I think these abstract forms are at the fundament of every true narration. They reveal themselves to us in ordered sharp contours but on the inside, they vibrate with emotion; they are, at the same time and contradictorily, solid and evanescent, in as much as they always negate what they have just said. This negation is their nature and their equilibrium, which I have called ‘perfect’.
So is it this perfection which produces the beauty we see in these two exhibitions? Its geometric disposition? No! Perfection, equilibrium, geometry, spatial disposition are only elements which are present at the same time, and there is never one of them which overrides the rest. Each element tells something which belongs to a larger recital and, if we were to stop to admire only one part, we would miss out on the story which, in the end, is what interests us the most.