This month Repetto Gallery
, a new art space in the heart of London, debuts
ceramics: Fontana, Garelli, Leoncillo, Melotti
,” a major exhibition in homage to postwar
Italian ceramics. This overlooked movement is characterized by the dynamic mix
of abstraction, utility, and art theory, that was championed by Lucio Fontana
, Franco Garelli
, Leoncillo Leonardi
, and Fausto Melotti
. Repetto’s show, which includes 30 works made
between 1946 and 1968,
features each of these masters, and represents
their respective innovative practices in ceramics.
Lucio Fontana, who wrote
several manifestos on the theory of Spatialism
in the 1940s and ’50s, is represented through
an expressive series of plates, many of which are punctured with holes and
incorporate sgraffito designs, and a handful of raw, elegant figural sculptures.
The works reflect his argument that matter should be infiltrated to create
dynamic, multidimensional forms—a concept which has been applied to
contemporary performance art and the Arte Povera
movement—which he frequently exercised in his
own practice, often by cutting and poking holes through canvas, and other
materials. Franco Garelli’s works—black-and-white sculptures that utilize
negative space and and carved-out forms—involve a similar decomposition of
material, and an attention to the fluidity and poetry of the object.
Fontana’s and Garelli’s
works are intermingled with the abstract, vertical sculptures of Leoncillo
Leonardi and the Greek-inspired works of Fausto Melotti. Leonardi departed from
his initial cubist leanings to create these crumbling, telluric pieces that
resemble ancient ruins or columnar sea creatures with barnacles.
presents figural sculptures in rich glazes or left in raw terra cotta, ranging
from simple unglazed human forms with conical bodies to elaborate female forms
wrapped in layers of flowing drapery, glazed in creamy whites and pinks.
Melotti conceives of his work in relation to the religious
cult of the Eleusinian mysteries
, “where plates, vases, and bowls transcend every ordinary
domestic function to transfigure themselves through some sacred ritual for
Persephone’s and mother Demeter’s death and resurrection.” A distinct work, Cerchi
(c. 1961), delves into abstraction, while resembling biomorphic
forms. It is composed of cylinders that have
been fused together in an organic stack, with small beads hanging from their
centers, resembling a group of biological cells.
Striking a balance between
classical and experimental ideals, the works on view seamlessly meld design,
functionality, and artistry.