Antonello Negri

The weight of the line

The weight of the line In the artistic research of our time the relationship with nature is a central problem, split between the poles, on the one hand, of imitation and, on the other, the identification of ways and patterns in growth, development and final definition of form. In a text published in 1912 in the Jugendstil magazine “Pan,” painter Franz Marc summarized the outflow of decades of confrontations by artists with more or less hidden organic forms into a concentrated attention to the “secret things of nature,” concluding, however, that in its specificity, art was and continued to be an “artificial” departure from nature and naturalness. Behind the “beautiful illusions” of nature there were discernible laws, to which the artist had to strive to arrive: Marc, as is well known, was a passionate painter of animals, but his problem was certainly not to paint horses, tigers or fawns, as much as to succeed in capturing what he called their “absolute essence.” An essence whose formalization-though originating from keenly observed natural formations of all kinds-should have achieved to “excite souls” independently of any imitation: like music, a nonrepresentational art par excellence. For Marc and other artists, e.g., August Endell and Hermann Obrist, who even before him had radically tackled such a problem, this implied an unmediated overthrow of the old naturalism into forms of linear elaboration capable of constituting a representational system synthetically analogous to natural reality, understood as a set of formative forces: this was by progressive eliminations of “accidents” and non-structural details, superfluous relative to the perception of the principle of conformation and growth
of the natural datum. This direction of research thus has a very solid tradition, rooted in one of the most consistent and rich sources of modernism: that aimed at an uncompromising purification of the artist’s operational tools (line and color in the first place). In this direction, focusing on the line, sculptor Andrea Forges Davanzati works consistently. For this artist, too, the “natural” constitutes an original stimulus and the starting point of formal invention: where “natural” is to be understood, among other things, as small forms of life observed with that same magnifying glass so often cited by the theorists and artists of Jugendstil modernism. Rotifero, Limulo, Tricoptera, Corissa – titles of as many sculptures – are the names of tiny aquatic animals of which the sculptor has endeavored to grasp, beyond the “beautiful illusions” of their appearances, formal functionality and hidden architecture. This investigation acts as a springboard for a design that is based on an extreme reduction of structure in a linear sense, arriving at a concentrated synthesis of forces and forms. The threadlike structures that Forges Davanzati builds pivot on the balance between the dry decription of a model, purified at best, and the mental pleasure of a system of lines that each time, in each work, defines itself as an autonomous “figure,” able to govern itself through internal thrusts and counterthrusts, now independent of the original model. The starting “naturalism” is mirrored in a strongly conceptualized transposition that manages not to lose itself, however, in that certain gratuitousness of too many pure conceptualist operations; neither do they share, the works of Forges Davanzati, the mathematical and absolutely abstract coldness of Pevsner’s sculpture, that in certain aspects would seem comparable. The inclination to the pleasure produced by ideas of structures and forces visually translated through the line is in his case sustained and intesified by another way of seeking pleasure, linked to the transformation of an abstract concept, as is that of line, precisely, into a concrete object, whose real “weight” (as in the two versions of Momento) may on the other hand appear hidden by a subtle sense of balance. Radical conceptualization on the one hand, ability to control materials and technologies on the other: in the end, these are essentially the two weights of Forges Davanzati’s scales. Antonello Negri October 1993