How have I not heard of the incredible sculptor, Gigi Guadagnucci before? Nicolas Bertoux suggested we visit the only museum in Versilia dedicated to a single artist at Villa della Rinchiostra, owned by the Malaspina family, in Massa, Italy. Guadagnucci was a good friend of Nicolas’ and he was instrumental in finding the property for Nicolas and Cynthia Sah that is now their studio and gallery where I’ve been working for Sept. and Oct. 2018.
The collection of the late sculptor’s work is housed on the main and basement floors of the Villa. It is a tucked away location, so we were fortunate to almost have the place and the two docents to ourselves. Guaddagnucci curated the exhibition before he died and he was meticulous in how the pieces he chose were displayed and lit. There is a lovely rhythm to how he has arranged the pieces together.
Almost all the sculptures are executed in white statuario Carrara marble. He chose pieces from all points of his career that included stylized representational compositions, pure abstracts, and low relief figurative works that he turned to in his late years. He worked right up until his death in 2013 at the age of 98. I hope I can work at my passion until my own death.
I was most impressed with his pure abstracts, which he turned to in the late 1950’s. Below right is the pivotal piece he did in 1957 he titled Metamorphosis that is about 24″ tall. The two on the left are much larger sculptures. I was taken by the deep negative cuts of each of these, along with the controlled straight edges over a 6 foot length. No machine robot work here!
These two (below) are exquisite in their delicacy. Guadagnucci was able to carve the wide surfaces to about 1/4 inch thickness – WITHOUT breaking them! The centre and left are two views of the “Butterfly”, as the shadow cast is the shape of one. Normally, I estimate that I take away from 40 – 50% of the original stone block when I create my sculpture. In these pieces, Guadagnucci seems to have taken away 80% of the stone.
I love how he carries the shapes, and edges to flow into one another and the effect seduces the viewer’s eye around each sculpture. Indeed, Michelle and I found ourselves being mesmerized into walking around each piece, following the lines and dying to touch the sculptures!
Normally, I am not a fan of extreme negative space in stone sculpture, as I feel too much negates the presence of the material. However, Gaudagnucci’s negative space awed me and I really loved that he created such negative space in the marble. The way the light falls on each sculpture is magical, illustrating both the marble’s translucency and ability to cast dramatic shadows.
His work has inspired shapes and forms in my head and for me to re-examine my view about stone sculpture. I can see how he has also inspired and affected many artists in this area of Italy – including my friends Nicolas and Cynthia. If you are ever in Versilia, Italy, I highly recommend visiting this fabulous little museum.