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Franco Mazzucchelli on display at Spazio Volta in Bergamo

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Opened on Saturday, September 30 at Space Volta, in Piazza Mercato delle Scarpi in Citta Alta, the exhibition owes its title to a curious episode. It’s 1970, and an interviewer is wandering first through the Alfa Romeo factory car park and then into Milan’s Piazza San Fedele, where there are some inflatable statues of sincere Mazzucchelli. Passers-by are stopped and asked about their opinion of the isolated works “abandoned” in the streets of the center and on top of parked cars. Some are confused, others are curious, and others are very skeptical. In particular, one interviewee declared: “Ah, well…it’ll be a sculpture!”.

Photo by Franco Mazzucchelli, 2023

Franco Mazzucchelli was born in Milan in 1939. He received the Alfredo D’Andrade Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022. Throughout his career he has investigated the use of industrial materials to create inflatable installations, often placed in public spaces. Bergamo hosts several large works by the Milanese artist, installed inside the Spazio Volta. The peculiarity of the European exhibition lies in the fact that there will be an alternation between a series of works, which will change at regular intervals inside the former fountain. It is a “changing” exhibition, designed to encourage interaction between the audience, passers-by and the exhibition site. Mazzucchelli’s installations feature different shapes and colours. Large red tentacles stand out over Piazza Bergamo and cause a feeling of disbelief in those who encounter them while walking. Why does an inflatable nail visibly stick out of what is supposed to be the window of an old building? Intervention from the outside refers to the series a. To the. (Art to let go), which Mazzucchelli created in the 1970s to oppose the aesthetic canon of the time. Contemporary art can also be playful, and can be displayed anywhere, even in the most unimaginable places. It is a tool that makes a new “living dimension” possible, a means of changing the perception of the “here and now” and giving the observer the opportunity – if only for a few moments – to return that vision to one that is familiar, friendly and familiar. The daily dimension.

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Franco Mazzucchelli, Catena, 2021, white PVC, air, variable dimensions

“What are these things here?”

“What do they suggest to you?”

“They don’t suggest anything to me. They replace machines and that’s it.”

Today’s perception of Mazzucchelli’s works is quite conflicting, also thanks to the renewal of the aesthetic canon and a different public sensitivity towards interventions that combine the ancient and the contemporary, the public and the private, kitsch and the refined. The artist’s inflatable sculptures are structures of a contradictory nature, as the interviewer said. Different levels of meaning for anyone trying to search for something in works with simple aesthetics, childlike shapes, made from industrial materials of little value. These works, according to Mazzucchelli himself, represent the possibility of opening a new critical dimension, which translates into the full participation of an audience that, at the same time, carries out differentiated dynamics of interaction. The works presented at the opening shift slightly towards aesthetic inquiry.

Franco Mazzucchelli, It Will Be Sculpture, 2023, installation view, Spazio Volta, Bergamo

The red tentacles are attached to a large statue that has been inserted beneath the inner vault. Above it are writings in pen, numbers and drawings. Thinking about form leads to thinking about the inflatable item and its function: why insert it into a historical place? What’s he doing under there once? What are these writings? The other installation is located in the window overlooking the square and consists of a series of twisted white inflatable tubes. The resulting composition appears almost squeezed into the narrow space between the shop window and the brick wall. The indirect relationship with the works allows everyone to interpret the exhibition in a different way. You will want to touch those smooth surfaces, and walk among the structures that take your mind back to childhood. The social role of passers-by will be analyzed in relation to the perception that everyone will have about inflatables, both from a decorative and aesthetic point of view and from another point of view related to their function.

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On November 18, there will be a public intervention by Mazzucchelli in the large open spaces of Piazza Vecchia, on the occasion of the ArtDate Festival. The large-scale inflatables will move independently and passers-by will have the opportunity to interact with them, as happened in Piazza San Fedele more than fifty years ago, but with a different awareness of Mazzucchelli’s work and contemporary art in general.

Franco Mazzucchelli, Catena, 2021, white PVC, air, variable dimensions

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