Space and the City – Edoardo di Mauro

Claudio Spoletini’s work, if we are to place it in a historical and generational context, can certainly be linked to that late trend of Italian art that, beginning in the later nineteen-eighties, has not yet concluded its slow process of renewal of iconography and contents, including many references in its confrontation with the ever more invasive reality of technology and the new “medias”, in its attempt to elaborate a language that might enable art to face the treacherous challenges of an outside world with its tendency to incorporate art, neutralizing its vitality and the linguistic subversion that is its peculiarity, equating it to the unending sequence of spectacular effects of every kind that has for some time now become characteristic of our metropolitan scenery. Among the quantity of choices afforded by the many eclectic styles and multidisciplinary techniques in the field of art in the last twenty years, Spoletini has opted for the none too easy language of painting, renounced as obsolete by the breathless exegetes of progress; but progress is never truly such unless it is capable of stepping backwards as well as rushing forward, if its foundations are not laid on constant searching, questioning its aims rather than its means, since these have become of secondary importance now that, with Conceptual art, the taboo of “modern” bi-dimensionality has been definitely outmoded. If in the first phase of the “return to painting”, references had been fundamental to an inescapable aspect of art from Mannerism onward in terms of the mental analysis preceding the technical practice, and particular attention was paid to the return to values of visceral expressionism and of learned and skilful linguistic collage, the next generation began a determined migration of pictorial language to the field of contamination with other creative disciplines: photography, cartoons, advertisements, illustrations, delving also into the immense fund of formal stereotypes contained in the archives of history of art, so as to elaborate new narrative techniques capable of representing symbolically the new sensitivity of modern man. Claudio Spoletini has right of place in this milieu of artists. His pictures, often of massive dimensions, are not the kind to elicit indifference at first sight even from the most professional of spectators, used to visiting exhibitions, especially group ones, with a brisk step, stopping only when his sight is abruptly challenged. The brilliant colours and the precise, almost Escherlike, joining of shapes cannot fail to impress. But it is just this extremely polished aspect of the finished article that could at this stage cause a second instinctive reaction, that of judging the work interesting but too close  to the illustrator’s trade. At this stage it became necessary for me to consider the paintings in more precise detail, so as to really penetrate the meaning of this original poetical language. Painting, and in general artistic representation must choose between two different solutions in tackling external reality: it can deliberately keep its distance, and fall back into the enclave of inner sensibility and symbols, or it can grapple fiercely to regain the territory lost in decades of incessant, slow but inexorable incorporation. Spoletini has evidently chosen this latter course. His method, especially in his more recent works that constantly show fantastic urban landscapes, consists in using a sophisticated iconography, rich in references of different origin, and clothing it in the translucid vestments of shining mediality, stealing from borderline languages those peculiarities of immediate communication and perception of the intended message. A message that in itself is far from commonplace. It is clear that Spoletini observes the metropolitan scene with feeling and understanding, an approach which enables the artistic imagination to create situations of vibrant and suggestive poetry. Towns are the containers of our dreams, tensions, and utopias and the way in which we weave them into our relationship with each other, the empathy between us, which at present means our capacity to harmonize our individual loneliness with that of others. The presence of human beings is not contemplated in Spoletini’s cities, they, these cities, are the projection of the artist’s dreams and states of mind, and he re-invents them, and produces an ideal version, in which daring architectural structures represent the desire for utopia, and reality and imagination combine in a scenario recalling past (in some cases even pre-modern) archetypes, but also anticipating a future yet to be realized. With a style that is totally individual and recognizable Spoletini blends the ingredients of a well-balanced cultural cocktail: Baudelaire, Marinetti, Boccioni, Sant’Elia, Benjamin, Augé go hand in hand with Blade Runner’s science fiction and Superman and the Marvel comics, touching upon post modern and neo modern architecture and reaching out to De Chirico’s metaphysics of the early twentieth century and Salvo’s in its later years; I have mentioned only a few of the possible connections. Spoletini faces the far from easy challenges facing humanity at the birth of the twenty first century with that awareness and capacity for identifying and overcoming its problems which is only to be found in the true artist.

Edoardo Di Mauro, April 2004

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