FABIO VIALE: EMOTIONS IN MARBLE
Tattooed statues, tires, the Pietà with a black Christ, a sailable 253-pound boat: For more than 20 years, Viale has been working with marble, giving the material lightness and life. Here is the story of a visionary artist.
It spies, amazes, makes you think. The art of Fabio Viale leaves no room for indifference: matter is his challenge, transformation his aspiration. Viale does not set limits. When it comes to marble, he only sees possibility waiting to be discovered. Eccentric, perhaps. Provocative, when needed: Fabio Viale - sculptor since he was 16 years - manages his talent with the maturity of those who know that art is not made simply to be displayed in a glass case, but must break the glass to be introduced to those who contemplate its message. Art must have something to say, it is not meant to be silent. Viale’s communication instrument is marble, its hardness and apparent immobility: heaviness becomes light in his hand, rigidity becomes modular, sculpture filled with soul.
His language is an oxymoron, not contrast, but complete.
Born in the Piedmont province of Cuneo, Viale chose marble when he was at art school. His professor - seeing his ease with modeling clay - offered him a marble stone: he discovered the beauty, the physicality and the compatibility needed to create an intimate and full relationship. To learn the trade he opened a workshop, trying to earn a living from working marble. At the beginning he worked alone, mainly as a restorer and “forger”, recreating statues on demand, like one imitation of an 18th-century sculpture commissioned by a craftsman. The path became more clearly defined when he began attending the Albertina Academy in Turin. But he always learned the practicalities away from “school desks”, working among the artisans. His breakthrough probably occurred when he met the New York gallerist Sperone, who ushered him into the most important galleries and alleviated the economic worries of acquiring costly marble that had held him back. But if the meetings were important, his ideas were even more so.
The visual and emotional impact of Viale’s work is incredible, suggesting reflections and comments that may be controversial or
In his hands’ heaviness becomes light, rigidity becomes modular, sculpture filled with soul. This is the language of the oxymoron, not contrast, but complete.
harmonious, depending on the observer’s eye. They are certainly not complacent or indifferent. His works are made of movement and go beyond borders: Aghalla, the floatable marble boat able to move among the waters is proof.
He had just finished his studies and, after having tested a meter-long prototype in a bathtub, he went to the city of Carrara and succeeded to acquire the marble needed by convincing a quarryman to give him credit. In two months, hewn in an attic, that piece of marble was transformed into a boat. Once the engine was mounted, it sailed from the waters of the Tiber in Rome to Gorky Park’s lake in Moscow. A work, but also a challenge to the laws of physics: marble beyond sculpture, becoming living matter, vibrating and acquiring a function often distant from the aims of art.
Viale continually scrutinizes himself and his reproductions, but with the authority of canonical and classical art — widely seen as untouchable. Viale does not question artistic masterpieces, but uses them to create contemporary, entrusting them with a conceptual representation of today’s child. A faithful marble copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà with an African boy in flesh and blood, the black Christ, abandoned on the lap of the Madonna, is an example. The meaning is there to behold, and needs no interpretation: it is as naked as the body guarded by the Virgin, it is maternal pain, a sacred pain that
Fabio Viale continually scrutinizes himself and his reproductions, but with the authority of canonical and classical art — widely seen as untouchable.
embraces everyone, starting from the most desperate of souls. His founding principle is displacement dialect, a piece entitled Door Release that incorporates the same elements found in Constantine’s hand.
The original ‘hand’, an integral part of the colossus of Constantine kept in Rome’s Capitoline Museum, is covered with Soviet-prisoner tattoos, creating a temporal and conceptual fusion that generates fracture. In the same way, the Venus of Milo, an icon of classical beauty, abandons the canonical schemes by adorning her body to “tattooed” frescos.
The signs upset refined and elegant beauty, making it more tangible for this strong and incisive effect. Viale’s interpretation of the Venus of Canova accentuates the illusion’s contrast: the sculpture acquires lightness through the artist’s use of polystyrene, hiding its real marble matter. While the effect is distancing, the result is impact. The whiteness of the marble is altered, classicism is actualized, and aggressive marks give the statue a lifetime’s story. The philosophy of realism and contemporaneity defines the works of Viale, who segues from drawing on classical works to reproduction strictly in marble - of objects of little value, such as SUV tires, and turns them into works of art. It is apparent that Viale’s path is made of artistic virtuosity and provocative outbursts that lead him to continually seek out food for thought, a pretext for shaping the material, making us forget the coldness and the fear that it easily inspires. Everything becomes a short circuit in which the artist goes beyond the aesthetic balance of classical sculpture, giving his works new historical sense.
Viale is constantly experimenting with new language and prefers immediacy to retrospect, rooted in a perfect knowledge of sculptural techniques, guided by a perennial curiosity that animates. It is art that acquires life. It is cold matter that finds warmth through reappropriation of a story.
It is apparent that Viale’s path is made of artistic virtuosity and provocative outbursts that lead him to continually seek out food for thought.
Souvenir Pietà (Christus)