In order to explain the reason why Gianni Piacentino’s work is so compelling and contemporary as to make all poverist work look shallow one has to look closely at a kind of art that never concerned itself with what was happening outside and that was always looking for simplicity and perfection.
Piacentino’s art was formed in the 60’s in Turin, world capital of talents and innovative languages, Turin in the 60’s. He found his way very quickly and in 1966, aged 21, he exhibited his work with Sperone. Simplicity, technology, perfection in the making: These ideas may be difficult to discuss briefly but they carry an anti-corrosion message which is linked to form and to the search for perfection. Beauty and eternity are inseparably tied to one another and this union gets only more precious with time.
Aside from his magnificent background with motorcycles, Piacentino is an artist who cannot be dated nor is ever out of date. His work is always recognizable without being repetitive. His early work shows no sign of ageing and in time the artist found a way to concentrate his energy in order to adjust his work, even improve it. The differences we come across in his work of forty years can be found under the surface. It’s all in the improved materials and it can be seen in some choices dictated by experience and positivity. Thanks to the idea of perfectionism that shows in his poetry, he never proposes an established result. In other words, we could say that Piacentino never settles for what he has already obtained; he always looks for a new horizon, just a little bit further.
Technical differences, though, do not clash with his vision. They are structural data and they give value to the development and experimentation of his art. His search is rooted in the world of engines and his passion for motorcycles and races. It develops in a parallel way searching for the perfect blend between appearance and symbolism.
His forms come from the world of minimal structures but they cannot be related to minimal art. They are distant from the ideas of naturalism, serialism and reducibility. There is nothing primary to a single pink pole on a Plexiglas base, it simply blends technique with perfection. At times the enamel he developed was even ahead of the industrial products. It always gave exceptional results, both technically and essentially with a distinctive trait that created a gap, a differential. A work of art of Piacentino is either perfect or it does not exist.
His works cannot be restored, they have to be created again almost completely. In other words, what Piacentino creates is not only the synthesis of craft and industry, but most importantly it has the value of a prototype. And what is a prototype? It is an idea that takes shape and that can be reproduced, though the model remains fundamental.
The value of the object is very strong but it has no functional character. It is unique and finds itself in a artistic place where very few others, if any, have been. It is also the result of a form of art where everything needs to be controlled. It does not simply aim at the strength and the conviction of visual impact. It stimulates a mental focus that represents the pleasure of searching for perfection and looking for something that cannot be improved and that has to be accepted for what it is.
You could say that control is everything, similarly to when you drive a motorbike. With your left hand you can speed up or brake and whoever has better control in balancing the two wins the race. In this search for beauty lies the art of Gianni Piacentino. It is a solitary search but it is not disconnected from its time. And from this point of view his means are even more spectacular and expected. His painting is always as clear as an engineering project and it is perfectly combined with the chrome plated steel plates. This relation with very technological materials is undoubtedly the mark of Piacentino’s work. His use of technology, though, does not look for the industrial product but it seeks the idea, the clean and definitive perfection of an idea that literally takes shape.
Piacentino does not unquestioningly see the future as a synonym for progress. He does not follow fashion nor believes in a super technology that can solve and justify anything. For Piacentino everything begins and ends with the form and its colour. Everything can be connected to the man who makes and knows. This has been his strength because he has never tried to be fashionable nor to stay on top of the sociological imagery. He is often inspired by the shape of cars of the 40’s or by deco images. His logos do not search time, his “vehicles” don’t go anywhere, they only exist to be admired.
In this ability to work out of time lies his resistance to ageing. From his combined paintings to the bars, from the tubes to the vehicles stripped of any mechanical reference, his tribute to contemporary art cannot be eluded. It is no utopian metaphor for mechanics. Rather, it is “celestial mechanics” that does not wish to evoke the speed, steam or roar of a powerful engine. Everything is calm and pleasurable because in the realm of forms reality keeps at a distance. It does exist, only it is elsewhere.
Piacentino’s axiomatic art has the beauty and severity of a theorem. It is self-explanatory as an evident truth and needs no demonstration. It does not need the history of art, and much less the critique, in order to exist. Therefore, I stop and let us all be silent.