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Exhibition of work by Italian artist Massimo Bartolini opens at the Fruitmarket Gallery
Massimo Bartolini, La strada di sotto (The Street Below), 2011. Installation view, Palazzo Riso, Palermo. Courtesy the artist and Massimo de Carlo Gallery, Milan/London. Photo: Mariangela Insana.
EDINBURGH.- Massimo Bartolini makes immersive, experiential, spatial art. Rather than put work in a space, he tends to make work out of the space itself, modifying it, sometimes subtly, sometimes with maximum impact, to produce sculpture which is activated as the viewer occupies it. This exhibition admits us to the core of his practice, showing one recent large-scale work in the context of a selection of small objects from the artist’s studio, exhibited here for the first time.

The studio matters to Bartolini. ‘I like to stay in the studio’ he says in one of the conversations that shaped the exhibition. In the studio, he makes things on his own, thinking while making, thinking through making, allowing his ideas to be, in his words, ‘upgraded by chance’ while he plays around with materials. He is better known, however, for work made outside the studio, with teams of specialists – by, again in his words – Massimo Bartolini plus at least one other person. This present project turns around one such work – La strada di sotto, a field of coloured lights of the kind used during street celebrations in Sicily. The lights glow as a visitor approaches, their intensity rising and falling in response to a voice in a film in a next-door room.

There is no model for this vast sculpture in the group of smaller works that accompanies it. The small sculptures – objects that usually don’t need the help of any ’+1’ for their realisation – are never models or maquettes, have no relation to larger sculptures and will never be scaled up into major public works. They are studioworks, uncertain objects whose status and meaning are in flux. They are containers for thought, or maybe impulses towards thought, objects that the artist has recognised as coinciding formally and conceptually with what he is thinking about: ‘Here in the studio is where I really think. But since I’m not a conceptual artist, I need something to do while I’m thinking … ’

Bartolini’s work is often talked about in terms of metamorphosis and experimentation – work which changes space and our experience of it and which acknowledges, in its finished form, the processes by which it was made. This present decision to look at one major sculpture in the context of a selection of small studioworks seems part of this, and works to draw the viewer further into the magic of Bartolini’s visual appeal.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Fiona Bradley, the Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. It is accompanied by a new publication which includes a conversation between Massimo Bartolini, Fiona Bradley and Philippe Van Cauteren, Director of S.M.A.K, Ghent, as well as the artist’s own, often idiosyncratic, descriptions of his works.

Massimo Bartolini was born in 1962, Cecina, Tuscany, Italy. His work Untitled (wave), 1997–2012 was one of the highlights of DOCUMENTA (13) in 2012.

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