This work is registered in the Arnaldo Pomodoro Archives, Milan, under no. 709.
Sfera con sfera is essentially a smaller version of the monumental sculpture that Arnaldo Pomodoro created for the entrance to the United Nations complex, which was a gift from the Italian government in 1996. This is wholly apt: this sculpture combines many elements. On the one hand, it takes an almost Abstract Expressionist visual idiom into the field of sculpture, as is clear in the intricately-worked innards and the detailings inside the ruptured spheres. And on the other hand, it appears to be an indictment of technology, of the modern age and its reliance and reverence of the machine.
The intricate forms within Sfera con sfera are a deliberate counterpoint to the Brancusi-like sheen of the gleaming, glossy, golden globe that makes up the outer form. Somehow, the mystical, restrained and refined perfection that filled the Rumanian sculptor's works has here been disrupted. The outer skin is split open to reveal an inside that appears to be filled with technological materials, as though it were a broken machine from an ancient and lost civilisation, reflecting the artist's ambivalent and increasingly cynical attitude to technology and mankind's reliance on and reverence for it. There is both timelessness and modernity in the appearance of this artefact, a sense of the ancient heightened by the deliberately eroded outer casing that is countered by the golden surface and the high-tech gleam of the 'workings' within.
'The sphere is an extraordinary object because it reflects everything around it, creating such contrasts that sometimes it is transformed, becoming invisible, leaving only its interior, tormented and corroded, full of teeth...some say that it is an element of technology. I don't know, the relationship is odd...Everything inside a sphere is energy inside a form. The sphere can also represent the Earth, the world; today's world...Which can be consumed by the technology of civilization...' (Pomodoro, quoted in Arnaldo Pomodoro SPHERE WITHIN A SPHERE for the U.N. Headquarters, Rome, 1996).
Intriguingly, the revelation that led to Pomodoro's creation of these forms was not mechanical but instead vegetal. During the 1950s, he had become intrigued by the pictures of Paul Klee, especially those that appeared to touch upon concerns with life and the organic. This chimed well with Pomodoro's own ideas and developments during the period, and resulted in a series of works which appeared to incorporate organic matter, and which took Klee's forms into three dimensions.
Over the subsequent years, Pomodoro's visual idiom became more and more refined, as did the conceptual basis for his works. He began to blend the influences of Jackson Pollock, Lucio Fontana, the Futurists and Informel along with his own ideas in order to create something new and unique. Using the lost wax technique and exploring his concept of 'negative space', Pomodoro was fascinated by the very processes of sculptural creation. He often formed the templates for his metal sculptures by creating, in his materials, the areas that would become void during the casting process. Thus an element that he had sculpted in one process would later appear as a space in the finished work. It is important to note that for Pomodoro, the spaces in his works are themselves important parts of the whole, as can be seen in Sfera con sfera. In the more intricate inner areas, the tooth-like crenellations allow space and form to intermesh, to weave in and out of each other. This is all the more emphatically expressed in the tear-like openings in the outer sphere itself. This becomes, then, both a continuation of the interests of his compatriot Spatialists and a deeply personal exploration of his own choice of medium.
It is this process of art being created from nothing and art itself resulting in voids that highlights the result of Pomodoro's interest in Abstract Expressionism. There is spontaneity to the interlocking, staccato clef-like forms within this sphere that wholly and deliberately disrupts the seemingly timeless Brancusi-like sheen of the exterior. And while originally Pomodoro was little concerned with technology, it is in works such as Sfera con sfera that its importance is clearly explicit. This work, which resembles the Telstar satellite and clearly highjacks the appearance of technology, is in fact very much an art object. It condenses a uniquely contemporary visual language while also hinting at the superfluity of machines, making them appear somehow ridiculous, undermining the language of function that leads to their gradual evolution.
In its gleaming state, the world and the viewer are reflected in the surface of Sfera con sfera, a factor that appears to echo the artist's concern with interlinking space and form. Built on a rotating axis, Pomodoro's sphere maintains a tactile sense of movement and involvement. The realm of the art object and of its surroundings bleed into each other. Pomodoro himself has stated that
'I believe the light reflections are very important. The sculptures actually change during the course of the day, in sunshine and shade. The mirroring effects pick up the environment, the spectator. You can be reflected in my spheres, and your image will be distorted. That makes the sculpture very alive, a part of you, of nature in any sort of spot, in a park or in a garden, in the city' (Pomodoro, quoted in S. Hunter, Arnaldo Pomodoro, New York, 1982, p. 104).
This complex layering of form and content results in Sfera con sfera, a sculpture that is itself a personal extension of the thoughts, beliefs and aesthetic of the artist himself, and which directly involves the viewer and his or her environs and environment, which become themselves yet another surrounding sphere. It is a tribute to the success of this vision that his works are so recognisable, and that they grace public spaces where they are seen and admired by millions, be it in New York at the Museum of Modern Art or the United Nations, Dublin or the Vatican.