L’Italia non finita
di Pietro Consagra
«One needs to consider that almost all historic Italian buildings, were never actually completed, and naturally I had to choose sample of the most significant ones that were truly unfinished. In fact, there is a overlapping Italy, an immense Italy of superimposed buildings, that are extravagant and aggressive, stubbornly imposing new forms, one style built over the top of another. A baffling Italy.
A building is a tool that represents prestige and power, art, technique and collective spirituality. A building refers to all of the energies involved in defining the best options to lead to successfully finishing the project. That success however grows in various elements that then counteract each other so the work does not progress in one particular way. The building is born from a random, unattainable project, yet it always alludes to unity, our animism anxiously binding us to witness everything.
As soon as the first action is taken to convert the project into a tangible object, antagonism is created. It is an irresistible tension: desires, provocations, fears, everything must be transformed into a network of rules and the law of taste.
Furthermore, as the work begins, it is its own time that delimits what can be achieved. And it is precisely from that moment that what is missing, can be established definitively.
However, completing a building cannot have been a problem. In addition to weakening people’s confidence in power, the challenges faced would have exaggerated. It would have in fact been reassuring that the project took a long time.
There is a paradox in constructing a building that starts and fully completes. It is a convergence of concomitant elements that rejects and is deaf to those worries that did not materialise and left no trace.
The grandeur of the image of a building goes beyond the visible. It is in the spaces it covers and in those it hides, it is in its secret structures and in the evidence of the deadline it missed ».
(taken from “L’Italia non finita” - Unfinished Italy- by Pietro Consagra, Edizioni Vanni Scheiwiller, Milan, 1987)
Pietro Consagra (Mazara del Vallo 1920 - Milan 2005) created sculptures, paintings, and drawings. He experimented with new techniques, wrote poetry and prose, erected buildings, made jewellery as well as creating monumental urban installations.
From 1948, he affirmed his original concept of "frontal sculpture" in which the siting of the sculpture has the value of an abstract, plastic element and a strong expressive component – becoming ‘psychological’.
He received his first international awards at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (1949), the Biennial of San Paolo in Brazil (1955 and 1959), Documenta in Kassel (1959 and 1964), and at the Venice Biennale (1956 and 1960), in which he was awarded the "Sculpture Award".
From 1952 to 1962, his bronze sculptures, called Colloqui, were distinguished by a particular dramatic tension. This tension dissolved into sensuality and a more extrovert language and emerged, with the Piani sospesi (1964), the Giardini (1965) and Ferri trasparenti (1965-66). He held numerous solo exhibitions: Boymans van Beunigen Museum in Rotterdam (1967), Marlborough Gerson Gallery and Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York.
In 1968 he exhibited aerial transparent sculptures which were incredibly thin, being only of two-tenths of a millimetre thick, they were entitled Sottilissime. In the same year he dedicated himself to his Frontal City with buildings six meters of thick, habitable buildings that formed a continuous ribbon, without right angles and with two opposite facades. His process of constructing the image by connecting different elements remained unchanged in the subsequent large-scale works he made. Some examples of note are: the Trama (1972), the Muraglie (1976), the Addossati (1976) in marble, the Star of Gibellina (1982), the Porte of 1990, exhibited at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Facades of 1996, shown in the Palazzo di Brera in Milan and the Double Bifrontal in 2003, placed in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.