In an era where speed and urge have made meanings volatile and have eliminated the importance of both thoughts and words, artists like Pulcinelli use Art to rethink and give the right measure to language and life.
“RIFLETTERE” (“REFLECT”) The title chosen for the exhibition clearly summarizes what can be considered the programmatic aim to which Rudy Pulcinelli has always focused all his artistic production and which today can be found with greater intensity, if possible, in his most recent works.
In an era where speed and urge have made meanings volatile and have eliminated the importance of both thoughts and words, artists like Pulcinelli use Art to rethink and give the right measure to language and life.
With the introduction of digital and the great use that each of us makes of it every day, unfortunately, the importance of contact and dialogue is getting lost: «Everything is getting lost, by transforming even a simple thing into something ephemeral. And I would like that my works invite people to reflect on this aspect and on the right measure that must be given to things», says the artist.
If we add the fact that we are going through a two-year period characterized by continuous accelerations and slowing down, forced recoveries and stopping, openings and closures, today we cannot split the artistic act from a reflection on the flow of current events. The sculptor from Prato is not new to this, but indeed he has always drawn his expressive power from everyday events.
However, in view of the common experience that we are living, Pulcinelli’s works appear to us as exalted, even more in focus, since today we all have a common reference (that we can define as universal) that makes them similar and immediately understandable.
“With regard to the pandemic – the sculptor said in an interview – the only way to get out of it is to create a network. I am convinced that we will get out of it, but we will be all inevitably changed». And in some way, this is the hope, that change will make us different, more sympathetic and close.
Today we can all better understand the references of works like Giusto peso with its letters that sink into light concrete as if it were foam rubber – and the visual impact of the materials is enough to convey us the meaning of what we are looking at; or Germogli (Sprouts) where the alphabetic letters flourish, raising on the top of very thin stems, to remember us that if we strive to cultivate dialogue we still have the opportunity to save ourselves.
And again Risvegli (Awakenings): burnt wood created according to an ancient Japanese technique that makes this material waterproof and durable over time, from which letters are released like sparks, because sociality is a fire that can never be really extinguished. From the incineration of our certainties during the pandemic, a completely new way of life and relations between peoples can arise, despite the burns and wounds that we carry inside:
«I’ve deeply analyzed the period in which we are living. It is as if the burn gave me back the feeling of what has blocked us during these two years. The awakening lies in the rebirth of dialogue. Below there are no letters, it is the period that has frozen us but that is ending, and hope is represented by those that rise, the dialogue that flourishes again».
And also, in the artwork É un tuo diritto (It is your right), an installation in white coated iron, culture and sharing are proposed as an indispensable nourishment, through cotton paper letters kept in bowls usually intended for food. «I really want to focus on current events, and on issues that affect us personally and that lead me to reflect. For example, I designed a table with a single chair, in reference to the elimination of the teaching of art history from schools. The work is composed of three elements and stands in defense of a culture that should never be left behind and that should never be missed by anyone, as a plate of rice should not do.»
A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE FOR ART
Pulcinelli started from graphics, but immediately found in sculpture, ceramics and installations his own expressive tool, perhaps for an inner awareness of his ability to write space, to generate physical experiences and to give shape to ideas, by overcoming the limit of two-dimensional inert surfaces.
He chose the letters of seven different alphabets, the most widespread in the world (Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Latin and Japanese) and made them the subject and building material of his artistic imagination, «so that I could talk about everyone in the same way. And thanks to this method I communicate with the public talking about what is contemporary», he explains.
One of the most fascinating in the sculptor’s work is precisely his ability to move in perfect balance between the conceptual – with the stratification of meaning and points of view that belong to it – and the clarity or aesthetic perfection that make his works intelligible at a glance.
With his sculptures Pulcinelli materializes a new language of art, global. The letters, which he borrows as pure forms, rewrite the space that surrounds them sometimes with their weight, sometimes with their light and aerial movements.
Pulcinelli chooses them on the one hand for their symbolic value, on the other for the purity of the lines that composes them. They relate to each other following an aesthetic logic and giving life to a new semantics: the elements “dialogue” with each other through the game of balance between round, squared, more or less angular bodies.
The letters can tell nothing by themselves, since they draw new meanings together, leaving shadows and footprints. Posing, intertwining, stretching and exploding upwards.
However, the goal is neither purely aesthetic nor purely didactic: Pulcinelli does not gather the letters to create words or phrases of complete and arbitral sense but, on the contrary, to encourage the observer to reflection and dialectics.
«The artist carefully avoids that in the clusters of letters, in the joints, in the blooms it is possible to read, a decryption, precisely in order not to distract the viewer with the particular but in order to make him look at those piles of forms like the universal they represent» – as it is clarified by the curator of the exhibition “Riflettere” Alessandra Redaelli.
Pulcinelli’s works are an invitation to awaken dialogue and to give birth to new trajectories of meaning above any linguistic or cultural difference.
Pulcinelli’s art is a sort of code of artistic communication in the name of tolerance and enhancement of the particularities of each one, be they ethnic, linguistic or cultural, so that they can be perceived not as obstacles, but as opportunities.
Precisely by creating these impossible sculptural arguments that we would not be able to pronounce or read, let alone listen, but only internalize, the sculptor makes his art «an invitation to dialogue and sharing, all played – as written by Alessandra Redaelli in the critical text of the exhibition – on a very elegant counterpoint of contrasts: between chaos and geometric order, full and empty, dazzling white and dark earthy tones.»
In Pulcinelli’s art it seems to exist a parallelism between sign and individual, a simple equivalence in his sculpture, allusive to a new order of human relationships. The signs of language become sculpture and sculpture becomes conversation on man and to man.
In front of a work, the viewer is necessarily called to get involved, to leave his preconceptions by opening up to Art so that he can build a relationship with it.
This relationship is not only a matter of physics and proprioception, but it is a relationship that does not even belong just to verbal communication, extending, if anything, to the mental and emotional one. It is a moment of personal transformation that arises from the willingness of the viewer to explore other points of view and experiences. This willingness is nothing more than the first step towards dialogue.
Communication is never a one-way path, it has no univocal direction, it can only take place in multiplicity. In the singularity there can be expression, almost never communication. Communication is also conflict, exchange, give and take.
Pulcinelli – and universally the artist – is the first actor within a world that has been gradually shrinking; the distances among continents are almost canceled and modern technologies make the exchanges from one part of the globe to another simultaneous and without apparent friction.
Behind this ease of movement and communication, which allows us to come into contact with cultures and habits that are completely different from ours, it is hidden the danger of flattening, uniformity, taking everything for granted and no longer having the desire or ability to curiosity and analysis. Or on the contrary the danger of fear, mistrust, estrangement.
A danger of losing not only one’s own cultural identities, but, in doing so, of denying peculiarity to those of others.
Pulcinelli therefore reflects on the origins of language, that moment in which from the symbolic and almost magical traits humanity and civilization spring .
In these sculptures the letters keep their iconic value, hidden and visual at the same time. They have the mystery of their origin; they are the object of attraction and the subject of thought. It does not matter to which alphabet they belong: they are universal signs and suggest a passionate multicultural appeal.
The signs in Pulcinelli’s works move away from the common use of written communication: they mean nothing alone, they gain universal value together, moving a lot and generating sometimes spaces of silence and sometimes conversations, even if we cannot hear them, and in that dialogue the viewer is an integral part.
«Educating the individual in dialogue means providing people with the potential and concrete resources to counter indifference, intolerance, racism, fanaticism, bullying and all those contemporary phobias that are increasingly undermining our coexistence, in what we can and must now call a global society. I am convinced that this value, today more than ever, is of vital importance. We must create connections, foster and nurture relationships and not be afraid of debate. In this way I want to emphasize the intrinsic value of the human being, that must be cultivated through education and instruction as an inalienable right and as a keystone to respond to the need for communication that is the primary need and spiritual food of every human being. Today this is the true treasure to be preserved and defended, we must fight to leave this great legacy to future generations.»
BETWEEN ENCROACHMENT AND RESILIENCE
(S)confinare. This is the title of the work with which, in 2009, Rudy Pulcinelli took part in the event Oltre il limite, XX Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989-2009 – PLAZA International Contemporary Art Exhibition, Milan. This monumental work will later be acquired by the Fundacion Pablo Atchugarry, Museum of Contemporary Art, in Uruguay.
Looking at the work from afar, it appears as a barrier, an obstacle consisting of two parallel monoliths which resemble a slice of the Berlin Wall, that has represented for years a symbol of restrictions and impossibility of communication. As you get closer, it becomes more and more clear what is happening inside the two barriers: a mass of letters flows overwhelmingly and trespasses. Dialogue finds its escape path, a crack through which freedom of expression can flow, a source from which mutual knowledge gushes.
Here: Pulcinelli’s works seem so concise to the eye, and in reality whatever is their size they are able to open up entire debates. This ability in the artist has not weakened over time.
The artwork Resilienze, made of corten steel and cooked iron wire is dated 2019. Once again, two parts forcibly separated, and the will is to come back together and recreate a dialogue.
It does not matter, therefore, in which part of the world you are, how great the work is, how many letters you can understand. When Pulcinelli comes and where he passes opens windows on the world, creates bridges, overflows, trespasses.
STUDIO VISIT, between East and West
Rudy Pulcinelli comes from Prato, Tuscany, a land that has never been afraid to open up to the world and that today welcomes a large Chinese community, strongly rooted in the territory.
There is a bit of Prato in Pulcinelli’s multicultural art and – as he admits – there are many resemblances between his city and his work.
«For years, I have been carrying out a message linked to dialogue, which I recognize very much in the current identity of Prato. If we look at its history, from the period after the WWII, in the sixties and seventies it has welcomed a substantial immigration from all the southern regions, then from the nineties, again a wave of migration, this time from non-EU countries and in particular from China. Today I live in a multi-ethnic city, supported by dialogue and I like to think that, with my work, it is as if I carry around the world some strong values that I’ve inherited from my land.»
The sculptor’s journey has been reversed, since he brought his art to Asia, and today he lives and works between Prato and Beijing, the city where he established his own second studio.
It is very peculiar the comparison of the images of the two studios of the artist, which, with their different atmosphere, seem to retrace the duplicity of the sculptor’s character. On one hand, in the studio of Prato, craftsmanship, intimacy and materiality full of tools seem to dominate. On the other, in the Beijing studio, the brightness, the airiness, the method, which appears a space of thought.
Surely the Chinese experience has allowed Pulcinelli to expand his reflections and his spaces, both artistic and internal. The artist was called to face to a vast, complex reality, geographically and culturally, and the result was the growth also in size, of his works and above all of his thoughts.
«China has opened up a new world to me. There is great attention to contemporary art». He started working in Beijing after meeting a son of a gallerist by chance. «He had gone to China to study but then fell in love with it and decided to stay there. He came back to Tuscany, accompanied by a Chinese entrepreneur. Together with the consul we organized a visit in Prato starting from the Pecci Museum and then they made visit in my studio. From there the spark was born.»
Beijing is a city that combines ancient and modern. «There is always an incredible ferment inside and a great desire to grow. I immediately perceived the strong desire to open up to contemporary art. I like to notice that it is not so much the artist himself, the name, that counts, but the value of the work: and if the work is worth it, they bet on you»
Pulcinelli made the first artwork in the Chinese capital in 2013, for the Baimamedo Tibetan Art Center Museum, made on site to avoid the risks and costs of a shipping. White Connections, is a permanent site-specific installation and also an artistic-cultural project, which has received the patronage of the Italian Cultural Institute in Beijing.
The work consists of Tibetan alphabetic letters, made of steel – a material typically ascribed to Western industry – yet painted white, a color that for the culture of Tibet means internal and external purity. Gathered on a vertical surface of which they compose the weft (the inhabitants of Prato can understand it), they become the supporting fabric and at the same time represent its content.
The reference is to the Tibetan flags that collect and enclose the prayers of the devotees, placed outdoors in front of an invisible god. As the wind frays the flags, spreading the prayers in the air and on the earth, so in Pulcinelli’s work the letters are collected in heaps like sediments ready to create new words, in a renewal of a generative action. In both cases the written word penetrates the silence.
It is no coincidence that this multicultural and universalistic spirit interpreted by Pulcinelli finds welcome and recognition in modern China. Art builds its bridges.
Another installation that is worth to be mentioned is Creating Dialogues. During October 2015, for the National Day of People’s Republic of China, Pulcinelli created a site-specific installation in one of the main streets of the 798 Art Zone in Beijing. In the following months the same installation was exhibited in two other spaces of the capital at the Tian Qiao Center for Performing Art and in the Beijing News Publishing House. The work consists of seven letters in white lacquered wood, each 2.10 meters high and 70 cm wide, and takes up an area of about 90 square meters.
The artwork created by Pulcinelli is not conceptual, it is a civil space, friend of people, and of children. It is a meeting point. The installation is not inert, nor does it have only decorative purposes. If anything, it is a social tool, to encourage not only the movement of people’s body but also the relationships among visitors and between visitors and the individual components of the work. In conclusion, the dialogue among people, and between people and art.
«Dialogue means a verbal debate among people as a way to express different feelings or discuss ideas: I believe it is a real social practice, an ideological model, fundamental and characteristic of a civilized society with great ability of communication».
Even the choice of the place, then, was not made by chance: the work was, in fact, placed in the middle of a very busy street, in one of the most cosmopolitan districts of the city: «The will – as Pulcinelli explains – was to create, also through curiosity and amazement, the pretext to give life to a space that would allow, even if for a short time, to slow down our daily urge.»
Since the opening reception, the living character of the installation has emerged. People of all ages, from different backgrounds, interacted with the sculptures, stopped to talk, sat down, rested, played, or posed for a photograph.
«Even if, for a few minutes, people slowed down their pace and shared, in this unusual space, some of their time with others, relating without prejudice, without barriers but simply dialoguing.»
Coming to the present, Pulcinelli’s creative relationship with the East continues. In December 2020, invited by the curators Qiu Yi and Ye Dongwei he took part in the exhibition Two Cultures and Space, at the Qingdao Sculpture Art Museum, in Qingdao, China, an event organized by the Chinese National Academy of Sculpture, promoted by the Association of Contemporary Art and Culture China and Italy with the patronage of the Municipality of Florence and the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.
His stay in China has given Pulcinelli a way to observe a culture that, even in an increasingly globalized world, keeps its peculiarities, but this does not mean that the dialogue, that art knows and can interpret and express, can not be established. Although we do not want to attribute to art – by virtue of its symbolic strength and for the value we give to its intrinsic nature – a promoting role of universal understandings, we can still recognize its decisive contribution to the transformation of the vision of the world.
MATERIAL AND DREAMS
We have mentioned how Pulcinelli uses alphabetical signs as building elements of his works and installations.
However, the choice of materials is not secondary, once again motivated both by aesthetic taste and by conceptual and synesthetic decision.
Corten, iron, polystyrene, cotton paper, steel, ceramics, fiberglass, rubber, stone, light concrete, wood, plaster. Smooth or rough surfaces. Lacquered white or deliberately left rough, forced to rust.
An immense variety of feelings, therefore, which reflects the poetics of the artist, devoted to curiosity.
«For me curiosity is a fundamental engine, not only in the artistic field, but in life in general. My research is a work from a conceptual point of view, but that inevitably leads me to experiment with many materials, each time chosen according to their characteristics, according to the message I want to convey»
Pulcinelli is therefore always searching for overcoming those limits that still remain.
To those who have asked him about his future and his long-cherished dreams, he replied as follows:
«Although, luckily, I’ve managed to make some come true, I still have many as I keep adding them. I think dreams are a lifeblood, a drive to always achieve new goals. Picking one from the working sphere, I want to share a fairly ambitious one but, on the other hand, they are dreams. Since I visited, for the first time, the Great Wall of China I immediately fantasized and I imagined, an installation formed by a lot of white letters, which overlook the wall crossing this incredible border, to highlight the development of contemporary China, which opens up and dialogues with the West.»
Rudy Pulcinelli was born in 1970 in Prato, Italy. He attended Petrocchi Art Institute in Pistoia and the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Studies in Florence. In 1997 he exhibited for the first time in the United States. Since then, he has started an international path that has led him to set up exhibitions in private galleries and public spaces in Arkansas, Louisiana, Virginia, United Arab Emirates, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Uruguay, Thailand, China, Morocco, and Argentine. He has received several awards, among which: The Next Generation Prize, “Fiorino d’Oro” Florence Prize and the Europol International Art Prize (2011 – The awarded artwork was permanently installed at the headquarters of Europol – The European Police Office in The Hague, the Netherlands).
His works are part of important private and public collection, among which: the permanent collection of the City Hall of Charlottesville in Virginia (U.S.A.), Paolo VI Modern and Contemporary Art Museum in Brescia, Pinacoteca dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Lucca Center of Contemporary Art, Fundacion Pablo Atchugarry Contemporary Art Museum in Uruguay, Europol HQ, The Hague, the Netherlands, Silpakorn Art Center, Bangkok.
In 2013 he created the permanent site-specific installation White Connections at the Baimamedo Tibetan Art Center Museum, 798 Art District in Beijing, China and, in the same year, he was selected for the project Residence d’Artistes at Centre d’Art Contemporain Essaouira in Morocco. In 2014 he was invited as a member of the jury of 798 ICAF, International Children Art Festival in Beijing, where he also made a series of creative workshops during the event.
In the same year he took part in the II Biennial of Contemporary Art in Casablanca, Morocco with the work Le Repas Quoditien. In 2015, during the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, he created a site-specific installation in one of the main streets of the 798 Art District in Beijing. In the following months the same installation was exhibited in two other spaces of the capital: at the Tian Qiao Center for Performing Art and in the Beijing News Publishing House. In 2018 he created Dialogue, a sculpture made of glazed ceramic, making an exclusive edition for the project Legame, commissioned by Unicoop Firenze and created the site-specific installation Dialoghi in Piazza Bruno Buoni in Brescia. In 2019, during Fuorisalone in Milan, he presented a monumental sculpture inside the Romana Design District.
Moving from sculpture to installation, Rudy Pulcinelli develops a refined and intellectual research focused on the theme of dialogue and the individual as a unit of measurement of the potential value of mankind: in the contemporary Babel of people and ethnic groups dramatically consumed by infightings, where the respect of human life is often sadly forgotten, Pulcinelli, by using the symbolism and the letters of the 7 most widespread alphabets in the world, tries to connect the concept of communication with the one of memory. Concepts that together play an important role in laying the foundations of his extremely contemporary, media and emotional sculptural-installation language.
A sort of artistic communication code aimed at emphasizing the need to invest in the individual, in his history and his future, in the name of tolerance and enhancement of the distinctive traits of each person, be they ethnic, linguistic or cultural, so that they can be perceived not as obstacles, but as opportunities. The letters forged in sculptural material, in corten steel or polystyrene, or suggestively and masterfully evoked through the use of lights and shadows, reflect microcosms (individuals) in dialogue with each other within macrocosms (community), that communicate with each other. In this way Pulcinelli emphasizes the intrinsic value of human beings, that must be nurtured with education and instruction as an inalienable right and as a keystone to respond to the need for communication, which is the primary need and spiritual food of every human being.
Since 1997 he has regularly exhibited in private and public spaces in Italy and abroad and has taken part in the most important Art Fairs. His works are part of private collections all over the world. He lives and works between Prato and Beijing.