A work that is truly rare as well as inaccessible, of museum quality, Fabro's Piede (Foot) opens up new perspectives in your perception of yourself, of the reality that surrounds us and of art. The journey to achieving its conquest was marked by a great and powerful desire to make it "ours". Not only in terms of physical possession, but above all in the mind.
A work that sits in the library, that engages in dialogue with our books, that towers over them and has a life of its own, imposing with its presence the mystery and beauty of a work that seems created to stimulate dreams. But also "flight", namely the urge to soar towards the sky. It is difficult to explain the reasons: it is certainly not because the stocking, depending on the height of the ceiling, can reach more than five metres. The "reasons" lie instead in its structural physiognomy: with the gilded bronze foot similar to a root that buries solidly into the ground, and the stocking, blue like a clear sky, that rises up proudly to conquer the space. The hard part and the soft: this bond between the reflecting, hard and imposing bronze of the base, and the lightness of the silk "stocking" that seems to underline a strange, wonderful vitality/spirituality of the work.
How many times have I thought of the Piede, comparing it to the ancient trees in the garden? How many times have I overcome this thought, going back to seeing it as a human being clinging to the earth, that is to say life, and at the same time yearning for the sky, its grandeur, the need to grow and to soar, in order to improve?
The Piede is all of this, and more: in the life of the collector it has abandoned the rationale of the artist, because its viewer, arrogantly, has wanted to experience it in his own way. It is a work you can't prevent yourself from making entirely your own: it transforms the context in which you live, and it enriches your daily life. The beauty, mystery and grandeur of its invention are there, in front of your eyes, confirming that the human soul, imagination, and creativity are without bounds. Just as the great artist who created it had none. His journey was unique, as were his works, which penetrate you at first sight, even if you don't yet know why.
We are absolutely certain that this work will establish itself definitively in your heart. Even no longer seeing it for years and years, we could describe its construction in minute detail and, at the same time, experience the emotions felt right from the very first moment.
‘The foot is not particularly conspicuous and yet it is always the focus of special attention. In sculpture regardless of whether it is visible or almost hidden, the foot is treated with great care and persistence, so that one can read the quality of the whole in a single
foot. In works that are executed in workshops, the artist often takes a personal interest only in the foot – possibly because it is the basis for the dynamics of the figure, a fragile point under a wealth of expression, gestures and draped folds, to which one can give
no expression (the face), no gesture (the hands), no rhythm (the drapery). It is the point on which everything else rests. The instruments of ideology cannot touch it, so artists have to manage without expression, identification, authority. The column of silk has neither meaning, nor structure, nor dynamics, but it gives the eyes a place to rest...Those who have touched these feet will have understood that hands can hear: those who have seen these feet will have noticed that you can listen to stone. But the deaf have not thought to touch them, nor to look at them with feeling. To those who ask me about my work, I can only respond in my own way. I’m no auctioneer (let me emphasize that), I do what most pleases and moves me in imagination (let me emphasize that). I made them as well as could be done. Phidias and Praxiteles, Donatello and Michelangelo, Bernini and Canova, are my witnesses. I’m not bringing these names up as examples, but because I have found them exemplary’
(Luciano Fabro, ‘An die Fussen’, quoted in Che fare? Arte Povera - The Historic Years, exh. cat. Liechtenstein 2010, p. 133).
Piede (Foot), with its startling contrast between a giant, grasping, shimmering polished bronze foot and its thin, light, towering, column of radiant blue silk reaching into the ceiling, is one of the rare and extraordinary series of Piedi (Feet) that Luciano Fabro made between 1968 and 1971. These works, which Fabro began to make in 1968 and first exhibited as a group in Milan in 1971 and later in 1972 at the Venice Biennale form a dramatic extension of the artist’s earlier 1960s work with space, form and material into the wider realm of fantasy. Introducing a bizarre, exotic and almost animate quality into his language of materials, these works also mark a departure - much noted at the time they were first shown - from the apparent poverty of materials that had come to be associated with ‘Arte Povera’ in favour of a new, sumptuous, almost baroque sensuality. Articulating a bizarre meeting point between the luxurious
materials of haute couture and corporeal forms drawn from world of Natural History, these extraordinary, unforgettable and seemingly nonsensical creations appeared to express a new fusion of material and form beyond rational meaning or understanding.
‘There are certain works’ Fabro once said of the Piedi, ‘that are born simply from a series of favourable circumstances among which it would be hard to establish any other or precedence: a critical moment in the general situation, the personal impulse of the artist, the availability of means such as money, or of instruments such as the technical capacity to produce the work or have it produced, the special resonance that the artist feels around him at the time. The Piedi were born of a situation of this kind, but they were also the point of convergence of all the responsibilities I had been accumulating over the years which they were produced from 1968-1971.’ (Lucian Fabro quoted in Luciano Fabro, exh. cat., San Francisco, 1992, p. 101)
Made at a time when Fabro was, for the first time, able to both afford and arrange their construction, and also while he was repeatedly exploring the use of a range of different materials in his ongoing series of Italie - maps of Italy made out of lead, fur, glass, bronze and other elements - there is something of the same sequential language of material investigation of these works underpinning the Piedi. Seemingly the animate product born of the artist’s bizarre conjunction of contrasting materials, Fabro’s pronounced feet on elongated legs also appear to relate on a formal level to the artist’s experiments with the often difficult to make, boot-shaped maps of his native land.
Unlike the geopolitical rootedness of the Italie, however, the distinguishing characteristic of the Piedi is their otherworldliness.
Extraordinary formal presences dynamically disrupting and transforming whatever space into which they are set, it is the strange poetry evoked by these work’s bizarre combinations of form, colour and material that ultimately sets them apart from anything else the artist made. It also seems that this was the point of the Piedi for Fabro. ‘Certain materials are right together because of their colour and form’ he said, ‘I chose the noblest quality of each one, the most refined technology… polished marble, cleaned bronze, molten glass, silk worked with a dressmaker’s finesse and colours to match this content.’ (Luciano Fabro quoted in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev ed. Arte Povera, London, 1999, p. 103)
The Piedi articulate a spectacular combination of contrasting material in a way that appears to bring to life an inner organic language within the materials themselves, transforming the work into hauntingly memorable formal presences that, like primordial giants, seem beyond the world of sculpture. Part, column, part leg, part magical apparition, the Piedi are what Fabro has described as ‘revelatory’ structures that transform their surroundings into the realm of fairy tale.
‘Modern sculpture in general is remade in the shadow of ancient sculpture, even if it is strange and exotic’ Fabro has said. ‘It is as if the armature remains and is partly covered with materials and partly with approximation. It thus has the same effect as the reconstructions found in natural history museums. But in the nature of art, as in biological nature, the skeleton is born and grows in relation to and as a result of the plastic mass and its dislocation. In the beginning, therefore, what is there is plasticity and not the skeleton; and it is the plasticity that determines the revelation that is called sculpture. I use the word revelation because vision is more appropriate to painting. Revelation is like being introduced to the mystery of the image through the materials: the innate strength of all things physical that is found in their material forms.’ (Luciano Fabro, ‘Vademecum’ quoted in Luciano Fabro, exh. cat., San Francisco, 1992, p. 101)