Franco Mazzucchelli


Marking space: the art of Franco Mazzucchelli

Franco Mazzucchelli’s art seems to follow the coordinates of the contemporary cultural climate particularly closely.
From his work in the Sixties and Seventies to the stage designs of the eighties, the artwork of this Milanese artist still continues today to analyse the problem of space and its use in the broad sense of the term. With his “inflatables”, enormous polyethylene and PVC structures in various shapes filled with air, Mazzucchelli connects the experience of environment art to that of the entire range of the field of art. He creates his works collectively abandoning them and substituting the normal aesthetics of the site with them or alternatively uses them to re-appropriate a public site which in actual fact is not considered such.

ABBANDONI (abandoned)
At the end of the Sixties he felt the need to meet the challenges of a more realistic context than that of the narrow world of art galleries and he experimented with a new form of public art. After a few failed experiments (his first inflatatable sculptures in 1964 only lasted twenty minutes before they deflated) he produced the Abbandoni (abandoned), inflatable structures in PVC left in public places and designed to interact with the public as an opening up and liberation of the system of art.

A. TO A.
Art to Abandon, a toi: at the end of 1970, Mazzucchelli decided to map and record his abbandoni numbering them an documenting all the details including the cost. Although these inflatables, which had by then been branded with the initials A. TO A., were abandoned and accompanied by detailed documentation of their relations with the public; the voices of those present, recorded and transcribed, ended up in a self produced publication.
When in 1972 Mazzucchelli abandoned some PVC inflatables (A. TO A.) in front of Alfa Romeo he involuntarily triggered a road block by some factory workers who used the plastic shapes to create a barrier to block the cars.
At the time this was considered working in the social sphere so that art could come out of the temples of knowledge to produce and discover new dimensions, new languages.

CADUTA DI PRESSIONE (drop in pressure)
This Milanese artist’s work contains two central issues: the relationship between human beings and the environment and space experienced as a portion of the environment to take possession of and not as something empty or wanting. In Caduta di pressione (drop in pressure), an exhibition held in 1974 for the Diagramma Gallery of Milan, Mazzucchelli investigates the extraction of oxygen in interiors due to the respiration of those present as a slight but quantifiable modification of the environment.

SOSTITUZIONE (substitution)
Mazzucchelli started intervene in environments by using polyethylene to create semi transparent membrane through which space was modified and perceived in a new way.
The artificial nature of the work in Sostituzione (substitution) in 1973, with its enormous bubbles of very thin plastic, completely transformed the normal use of space inside the Milan Triennial obliging people to reinvent the space and how to occupy it.

RIAPPROPRIAZIONI (re-appropriations)
The Riappropiazioni (re-appropriations) of the middle of the Seventies, reproduce the problem of the Sostituzione but outdoors: the membranes of plastic film encourage the rediscovery of public places so that they are experienced from completely new viewpoints.

INTERVENTI (interventions)
Since the Eighties Mazzucchelli has centred his feeling for social issues in his teaching given that the grounds on which and for which a series of experiences had originated had exhausted themselves. He didn’t stop producing his inflatables but involved his pupils in the action as an occasion for a reciprocal exchange of experiences and ideas. Mazzucchelli made himself the promoter of a renewal of the contents and teachings at the historical Accademia di Brera, the first and only academy in Italy able to boast a course in sculpture with a strong emphasis on the use of artificial materials.
He started with the need to work at a social level and came recently, through a series of experiences in which the common theme was “collectivisation” and by abandoning normal exhibitions to leave his mark on unusual environments or outdoor sites, to reflect on the concept of the monumental. The art of this century has radically changed the meaning of the monumental, underlining the estrangement of contemporary human beings from past forms of communication.
In contemporary culture the monumental has generally lost the evocative charge that it had in the past. It no longer interacts with people and has become just another part of the urban décor.
Franco Mazzucchelli has superimposed his work on some monuments disrupting both the distracted perception of passers by and the original meaning of the work: for the short duration of Mazzucchelli’s intervention, the Napoleone of Canova in the Brera courtyard floated ethereally and weightless on a cloud of polyethylene through which people could walk.

PROGETTI VIRTUALI (virtual interventions)
The numerous urban works of this Milanese artist have been replaced since the early Nineties by computer designs made specially for the city. It is a sort of electronic “Re-appropriation” which bears effective witness to the current conception of a different relationship between the creation and use of a thing. The artist therefore uses a scanner to re-appropriate the projection into the urban space of a society strongly inclined towards the individualistic dimension.
Thus Mazzucchelli’s virtual intervention re-appropriates the city, overcoming the search for interaction that now meets no response by presenting multiple interpretations of the same site in a logic of absolute freedom and possibilities.
The artist moves freely between the “exhibitions” of the past without getting caught in the webs of bureaucracy and with equally problematic results which, however, are more appropriate to the times.

In 2002 Mazzucchelli arrived at the anti-thesis of his starting point. As a logical consequence of accepting a change in the times without remedy and also driven by a desire to move ahead with his artistic research, he started to organise “personal” exhibitions. By combining his love for the sea and the strength of the wind with the versatility of plastic, he used a sailing boat to get away from everything and temporarily abandon inflatables on the water. In other words where no one except him could see the works, he makes an ironic comment on the narcissism of artists and attributes the double quality of artist and public to “personal”.

Mazzucchelli continues his game with shapes and space along another line of his artistic production with the creation of variously shaped objects set in a more intimate dimension but nevertheless playful. Similarly Mazzucchelli’s numerous stage designs play on the ambiguous relationships between inside and outside, nature and artifice starting with the illusion in the representation and assisted by the synthetic fascination of the plastic materials.
And there again the creation of “objects” (1963) in polyester resin has formed part of Franco Mazzucchelli’s work since the start of his career.
The investigation of the shape and the surface is linked to the transparency of the material amplified by the presence of an electric light hidden in the pedestal.
In his latest works (Tetraoro, Cuboro, Cubacqua), however, the beauty of the geometrical shapes is enhanced by the clear contrast in the use of plastic material coated in gold and silver leaf or in the presence of coloured liquids inside them.
The ambiguity of the disposable material, the symbol of a consumer society, is dressed in the wealth of tradition (gold leaf) or the naturalness of the primary element (water) but in a deliberately ephemeral manner.
His most recent production, entitled Bieca decorazione (odd decoration), is the antithesis of his “personal” exhibitions. With Bieca decorazione Mazzucchelli meets the challenge of a public exhibition space and even plays on the saleability of the pictures and inflatable sculptures, aware of the paradoxical contrast between these and the monumental nature of the enormous plastic sculptures that have always characterised his work.
The same playful attitude of previous works and, as the artist himself loves to define it, an amateur attitude in the etymological sense remains, starting with the deconstruction of the system of art to create “breaks and harmonies in the heterogeneous fabric of the city and its hallowed monuments”.

Marina Pugliese

[Artist web site]