emanuele giannelli
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Emanuele Giannelli: irony and decline of contemporary man 

Edited by Niccolò Bonechi

For the first time ever I find myself writing a review of an exhibition after the preview has taken place, complete with a toast in Villa Argentina’s beautiful setting and praise from those present. This experience was helpful in a moment of writer’s block caused no doubt by my partial knowledge of Emanuele Giannelli’s research: honesty towards the reader/spectator - and towards myself - has always been the means to reach a common purpose, to make my work credible and to make the beauty of Art approachable by every kind of audience. Having said this, I must absolutely thank everyone who attended the opening of the exhibition, everyone was  attentive, curious, passionate and interested. While talking to the public - accompanying friends and collectors, experts and passers by - many questions about the work came up, observations about the topicality of Giannelli’s work and a shared but introspective consideration for the condition of the man.

Personally and sincerely I would like to show my gratitude to the artist and also to Emanuele Giannelli, the man, who with typical working-class Roman irony has succeeded in communicating his creative intentions to me. His secret is simplicity: through a sarcastic and therefore easily recognizable language, he is able to tackle existential themes like racial and sexual discrimination, social encoding, industrialization and the consequent identity serialization. 

The name of the exhibition Identità alterate (Altered identities) intends to point out the key aspect of Giannelli’s research, which - unintentionally perhaps - is summarized by the quote “as the face is the image of the soul, the eyes are the interpreters” (De oratore, M. T. Cicero): having established an interest in the human body, which most certainly matured during his years as a student, it is necessary to dwell on the outline of the face. In this case I think of pieces like Dizzy Two or Gli Aviatori (The Aviators), where the features of the bodies appear disfigured by mechanical-industrial inserts that conceal, as if they were sensory deprivation extensions, the mouth and ears, denying any chance of communication.

It’s the need to reactivate a dialogue, an impossible prospect to this day, that gives Giannelli the will to work on pieces like Double Skin and Polaroid: even now, heading  towards the Third Millennium, man isn’t ready to accept others as brothers. These discriminatory tendencies are the primary reason for racial and cultural conflicts, and, most of all, they cause a shortcircuit in the communication process between people.

The monumental work Haida stands out as a symbol of this conflict, in which two figures, locked in an extremely tense posture, have unintelligible signs of aboriginal civilizations and wear post-industrial goggles.The whole composition conveys a condition of communication deadlock that can also be found in the disciplined firmness of the work Bipedi (Bipeds).

Going back to the Cicero quote, the importance of the goggles is apparent in pieces like Mr Kiribati e I Visionari (The Visionaries) as a screen that blocks out emotions. Both installations, though very different, represent the need to unhinge the chains that tie us to this declining society, trying in every way to stretch forward towards a distant future. On the one hand the men in suits in I Visionari (The Visionaries) remind us that we are all puppets moved by one, fragile, string; on the other the indigenous and consequently naked appearance of Mr Kiribati makes us think of the primordial condition of man, free from traditional values and obligations. But even in this condition of apparent freedom, Giannelli rages against them, marking their skin with a sort of identification code, thus giving them a new identity, as if they were the product of an industrial and serial process: this way the artist destroys any certainty about the uniqueness of human beings.

The exhibition is made up of approximately twenty pieces arranged over both floors of Villa Argentina, in a linear route that develops vertically creating a vortex of emotions. On the ground floor smaller pieces created over the years are displayed, whilst on the first floor there are more recent large installations (Mr Kiribati, I Visionari e Dizzy Two). Through the exhibition itinerary, set up with photographs and texts that focus on Emanuele Giannelli’s artistic journey, you come to the largest room which hosts the spectacular installation Sospesi. It’s a series of five life-size sculptures (only three are displayed on this occasion) that float in the air - as if in limbo between dream and reality - inviting the visitors to question the uncertainty of their existence.

The exhibition itinerary ends with a small group of pieces that are set apart for the strong sense of irony they give off, whilst still tackling the main themes of Giannelli’s research. For example in Hovo Sapiens and Humanoid, where man substitutes a mass consumption product; or the contemplation of the mask theme found in the grimace of the famous fighter El Santo. 

Emanuele Giannelli interview - Edited by Chiara Serri

Introductory text

What was the path that led you to creating the work displayed at Villa Argentina?

Sculptures, especially large ones, need museum space. In recent years I have had the chance of displaying my work in important public venues. For this reason, whilst working on some recent pieces like Visionari, Mr Kiribati and Dizzy Two, I had museums in mind, large areas perfect for contemporary art. The availability of these spaces, which are rich in history, gives the work more energy, involving the visitor emotionally. The research is figurative and conceptual at the same time.

What is your relationship with ancient sculpture?

Being from Rome and having lived there for nineteen years I was able to visit the classical museums of the city, and observe the paths and evolution of ancient sculpture. At the Academy of Fine Arts with Emilio Greco in Rome first and then with Floriano Bodini in Carrara, we worked on figurative art a lot and I always saw it as a challenge, looking for improvement and fusion.

Over the years I thought of figurative art as a conceptual element, bringing together proportions, twists and muscles with theoretical objectives, making figures become ideas and thoughts and human sculptures become mental representations. Finding a balance between figurative art and conceptual art wasn’t easy: the risk of academicism or of trivial search for beauty is always lurking. What’s important is to know when to stop and to let outside energies intervene, attaching a bolt to a back, making lines and cuts into wounds, microchips, mechanical parts and looking for elements that draw the attention to contemporary concepts. The challenge of figurative art remains, and there is a lot of work to do to juxtapose the human figure to modern neurosis and change.

While on one hand your work is in continuity with the past, on the other it is strongly connected to the contemporary debate linked to bioethics, clonation, body mutation...

I think social and political involvement should be expected by every artist. Art is a crucial tool for looking into, examining and portraying the contemporary world. Problems connected with bioethics, biodiversity and body manipulation can - and must - start a debate. Lets not forget that the natural essence of art is communication. I have no certain answers, but through my research I plan on asking questions to fuel debate and confrontation.

From a technical point of view, how does your work start? How do you choose what materials to use?

In almost thirty years as a sculptor, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various materials, each with a life of its own and a story to tell. In recent years I’ve focused on resin because it’s light and durable. From a technical point of view, I work with clay first and then use a mould to turn the model into resin.

What is the role of art?

Art has to encourage communication between people. Society is ever-changing and consequently artistic research must also be in line with the times and look for  new drive, advancement and unusual  transitions: it must be able to approach innovation. Unfortunately nowadays artists often deal with  a tight network of experts and critics excluding prospective consumers. I think creating a language for a restricted group of people is wrong. Art is sharing. 


Stefano Frascarelli

Le sculture di Emanuele Giannelli congelano la condizione umana attuale e ce ne sottopongono una visione che potrebbe non piacere: è possibile, addirittura probabile, che il mondo contemporaneo stia trasformando sostanzialmente l’uomo e che una delle caratteristiche salienti di questo nuovo essere sia paradossalmente una carenza di umanità.

Nessuno potrà affermare tale verità in modo inconfutabile ma la sensazione è che a governarci siano sempre più codici numerici e non codici morali.

 "L'ARCO DELLA GRAVITA'"  Villa Bertelli, Forte dei marmi (LU) Testo di Gianluca Marziani

Giannelli ha scelto di ritornare a  una produzione più classicheggiante, nella sua personale di quest'anno a Villa Bertelli di Forte dei marmi,L'ARCO DELLA GRAVITA' lo scultore pone al centro del suo obbiettivo artistico il corpo umano espresso con talento e forza espressiva.  

Ha tarato lo sguardo sul flusso orizzontale della scultura classica, ritrovando materiali atavici, tecniche consolidate e risultati carichi di radici.

In parallelo, benché le eredità siano visibili, non afferri mai il totale, l’opera sfugge verso l’inaspettato e lo slittamento semantico. Sta qui l’indizio del continuo presente dentro un certo modo di intendere la scultura: e Giannelli si conferma scultore nel senso pregiato del termine, alimentando l’asciuttezza del fattore tecnico, secondo codici riconoscibili e propri, adeguati ai temi del presente.

A una certa idea del presente il passato s’innesta nel futuro, la fisionomia “nostra” sembra racchiudere una diversa vita organica, forse aliena, forse postumana, forse umanoide...in fondo, Giannelli ci invita a non fermarci davanti alle somiglianze tra noi e le sculture; al contrario, aizza lo sguardo contro il conformismo visivo e morale, ritrovando l’energia cosmogonica di Constantin Brancusi, la drammaticità di Alberto Giacometti, artisti che immaginavano mondi paralleli, livelli onirici, altre culture e altri mondi, senza fermarsi all'impronta dell'apparenza.

Da questa parte, come spettatori emotivamente coinvolti, ci siamo NOI, sculture viventi che s’integrano nel paesaggio gravitazionale di Giannelli.

Qualcosa ci unisce più di quanto crediamo. La loro natura esterna somiglia alla nostra natura interiore. Natura e Cultura diventano la stessa cosa.

Criticism from “TO LIE OR NOT TO LIE” by Anna Lo Presti

Emanuele Giannelli’s work is precious in itself but also for his laborious reserch into describing the contemporaney man.

The lightness of the body and the simplicity of the movements are combined, always looking for that lift off the ground, where the strain his bodies depict is never in vain.

He knows the human body perfectly and he doesn’t use it as doesn’t turn it in to a symbolic work, he doesn’t use it as an object, but as a mark in the present time.

The body Emanuele Giannelli depicts through sculpture is primordial and tribal, it highlights being part of a tribe, it emphasises the value of the body itself and this is why he studies it.

Criticism by Luca Beatrice from catalog "Blocks"

Giannelli follows the contemporary philosophy, like many artists of our generation, developed from post-industrial trends: the soul-destroying work of over production, exalted in the monstrous sanctuaries that urban suburbs cling on to, may contain an equally marked desire for opposition, rebellion and exaggeration of the difference.

That post-industrial culture, that wanted to turn everything into a megastore of human misery among factories, products and consumption, has, on the contrary, sparked the spirit of the odd-ball.

The first means to explore is the body, the prime host for showing evidence of rebellion against the system: bearing the signs (from tattoos to raves, from hallucinating to street protests) means the subject-object has been taken away from the possible workings of the market.

The body is unstable and leaps away, it expands and contracts without ever stopping.

For this reason the alternative post-industrialization has expressed itself mainly through the bond between two abstracts: bodies and sounds.

The noise made by work tools, when intensified, exasperating and paroxysmal, turn the combination of soul-destroying and tame into scream, danger, urgency and warning.

Testo critico di Antonella Serafini tratto da "IN CONTEMPORANEA"

Emanuele Giannelli,  delinea la condizione umana evidenziandone fin dalle prime opere gli aspetti di precarietà.

Marca con forza la irreparabile omologazione degli individui con la creazione di replicanti, accentuando il senso di angoscia con l’utilizzo di forme o simboli che rimandano alle atmosfere di Blade Runner, ai conflitti di emozioni imprigionate in esseri dalla dimensione al tempo stesso umana e robotica, For Timothy come  Haida.

In questa prospettiva assumono particolare importanza le scelte dei materiali e dei componenti degli assemblaggi, prevalentemente plastiche, resine ed oggetti di recupero, “scarti”.

L’elemento della ripetitività caratterizza tutta la sua produzione, la serialità passa dall'essere umano ai paesaggi e viceversa.

Giannelli agisce ora sul doppio fronte dell’uomo e del suo ambiente urbano: con il trascorrere del tempo la condizione esistenziale non migliora.

SOSPESI di Rebecca Delmenico

Valore autentico in un artista è il coraggio nel percorrere nuove strade sperimentando e continuando nella ricerca, rimanendo fedele alla propria linea concettuale.

L'indagine è un elemento vitale, l’embrione da cui scaturisce la vis dell’opera, e questo è senza dubbio il principio attivo che incita Emanuele Giannelli a continuare, nel corso degli anni, la propria analisi che ha come file rouge l’uomo.

L’artista proietta, con le proprie creazioni, un impegno, ritenuto atto dovuto verso l’essere umano, cercando di porre interrogativi che scuotano le coscienze.

Il background culturale di Giannelli si muove attraverso le contaminazione tra i suoni elettronici del movimento industrial (Ministry, Einstürzende Neubauten),nei temi del post-industriale e del cibernetico, espressi da autori come Roy Bradbury e Philip Dick, toccando contenuti cari alla letteratura cyberpunk: l’ibridazione, i replicanti, la tecnocrazia, la ripetizione come teorizzata da Deleuze nell'opera "Differenza e ripetizione", nella quale il filosofo non intende la differenza come pura negazione; al contrario la differenza è concepita come affermazione pura, come atto creativo.

emanuele giannelli


press review

opening 20/10/2018 to 20/11/2018
Altro come possibilità
opening 03.08.2018 to 27.08.2018
presso Fortino di Leopoldo I, Forte dei Marmi (LU). A cura di Andrea Barretta
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