Ettore Colla is a highly individual artist in the panorama of Italian art of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His works, extremely sought-after by knowledgeable collectors, are difficult to find. His best known work is based on the search for old materials in iron, abandoned and with the marks of time, and their transformation into something different, namely Colla's idea and invention. Initially, the use of discarded objects led to the mistaken identification, in the artist's works, of the presence of the Duchampian ready-made and the culture of New Dada and Pop Art. But this was not so. The great Italian critics were aware of this, as were many international ones who saw his works (Sweeney and Sandberg) and, in particular, Laurence Alloway who followed Colla’s work with interest and curated his catalogue (London, ICA 1959). New York even organised a show entitled "The Art of Assemblage" at the Museum of Modern Art,
with some of Colla's works selected by W.C. Seitz. This introduction is intended to render justice to this "different" artist who left a universe that is astonishing, and only re-evaluated after his death. The image that one gleans of him, from the pages of the books consulted, is of a man, no longer young, meandering on his "tricycle" around Rome and its environs, in search of discarded objects from daily life, industry, wartime. But this was not a search for material in itself, as much as for inspirational energy that was subsequently to lead the artist to the creation of an image, totally separate from that of the original object, to give life to his sculptures. To Colla, "cercare" (looking for) objects was the same as "pensare" (thinking), the initial phase of the creative process. An artist who was entirely free, able to express an art in which language and invention totally coincide. A sculpture by Colla is always an "idea", full of fancy, of precision, elegance and, at times, poetry. His forms contain the abstract and classical characterisations of
rhythm, proportions, geometry.
This Ratto di Europa (Rape of Europa), also known as Piccolo Saturno (Small Saturn), escaped me the first time, but several years later I was successful in bringing it home. A rocking sculpture, it is an assemblage of old iron re-elaborated and welded by the artist, which recalls the form of a planet. In my opinion, it bears the idea that inspired a group of his sculptures known as "giocoliere" (jugglers). Some years after the realisation of this work, the artist, clearly satisfied with it, had a large replica of it made in new iron (with a single modification: a shaft two metres long that passes through it), which went on to form part of an important Italian collection. It is entitled Saturno (Saturn). Hence the new title of our piece: Piccolo Saturno (Small Saturn).