Monday, July 12, 2010

Fausto Melotti's "I magnifici sette"

You never know who you are going to stumble into at the Chelsea galleries. Almost two weeks ago, SW, visiting from Singapore, and I were wandering in the neighborhood when we walked into Gladstone Gallery, and met Fausto Melotti's I magnifici sette (The Magnificent Seven), 1973. Made of brass and stainless steel, the seven forms look like power grids but frame what appears to be outlandish musical notation.

The effect is strict, even severe, as befits Melotti's credo that "Art is an angelic, geometric feeling. It addresses the intellect, not the senses." But does the work provoke contemplation of order in the cosmos, or its opposite? The press release cannot decide. It quotes Melotti, "It is not for us to know, though a genius might, whether the thousand effervescent thoughts, so much in contrast today, like never before, are beginning to agree like the voices in a choir, to finally emerge together in a single voice or whether it shall all collapse in a dark torrent... We would be content if it were the wind of the Elysian fields, shaking and rattling the empty and sensitive pipes."

I do not sense such contentment in The Magnificent Seven. Instead, I feel its immense rage for order and harmony. If its mathematical and musical form reminds me of Hesse's Glass Bead Game, it lacks the German's feel for the necessity of prayer. Despite his reference to angels, the work's appeal is to the mind, and not what lies beyond the mind.

Born in Rovereto, Italy, to a musical family, Fausto Melotti (1901-1986) began studying music, mathematics and physics before enrolling at the Accademia di Belle Arti Brera in Milan. The 1986 Venice Biennale opened with a major exhibition of Melotti's work, earning him a posthumus Leone d'Oro.

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