In From | To the Italian artist questions the sense of existence, of things and of art, through the evolution of man as a ‘cultural animal’, an animal which of all living beings influences nature so greatly, through forms of consumerism, materialism and hedonism. All this is explored through the cracks and the concrete in Francolino’s work; “Looking at a crack is like looking at the universe: I reflect on the sense of life and of things.” he says. There is an objective awareness that man is mortal and cannot exist in eternity, thus experiencing the dichotomy between the fragility of his nature and the universality of his thought, unable to halt the relentless march of time: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” And the symbol of this lies in two vases standing side by side: one with earth and chlorophyll, and its double with cement and steel rods. The biotic versus the abiotic. This dichotomy is the driving force behind the work of Andrea Francolino.
Following his investigation of mass manipulation and the analyses of contemporary consumerism, Francolino reaches an essential style, one apparently bereft of aesthetic structures, where the expressive vehicle becomes an inert and almost colourless material such as cement or concrete. Throughout the history of contemporary art – think of Consagra, Arte Povera, Uncini, Burri right up to the works by the minimalist Donald Judd, cement has become one of the expressive materials of art in its own right. After all, its violent impact, capable of transforming man-made landscapes throughout the world, moving them away from Nature, best typifies the parasitic action of man on the environment which has escalated in the post-modern era. A square metre of cement against one of fertile land are the emblem of the ambivalence of human economic transactions, a far cry from any genuine exchange of equivalent values.
Francolino dematerialises cement, stripping it of its monumental, imposing, glorious aspect, only to break it down into dust. As such it is an ephemeral material that flakes and disappears with a gust of wind. In particular, his study focuses on the crack. Thanks to this formless form, Francolino moves to a new level of maturity, one which allows him to unleash an ambivalence with a strong expressive character. The dichotomy thus takes shape. Indeed, while in his previous works, the clarity of his critical opinion with regard to man’s shifting away from nature was cumbersomely evident, now the artist steps back and remains in the shadows, letting the works lead the audience towards the existential questions from which he set out. For while the crack may have a negative connotation, one of fracture, fault, decay, corruption or fragility, it may also become a threshold, passage, access or opening. Like in the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, where the fracture in an object is soldered with gold dust, so as to underline its accidental peculiarity compared to serial standardisation, which the artist uses instead to ennoble the crack.
This highlights a Nature/Artifice dualism which has accompanied art ever since the period of Romanticism. Fractures highlighted through gold, and cracks from which spontaneous life pours forth, germinating: the empty side (the crack) which represents the sense of life, while the full side (the concrete) ponders the sense of things. A possible hint towards rebirth and the end, to the transformation of material returning to nature. Ultimately, the question is nothing more than the awareness of a toing and froing movement, i.e. a ‘From/To’, within which human existence oscillates.
The ambivalence is also expressed in the artist’s practice, coupled with a performance approach to production, in which the number seven regulates the balance, for seven is the number of creation and of the seven wonders of the world. A research path leading beyond the studio, the ‘to’, in which the action of taking casts of cracks mimics the scientific and neutral work of the geologist, yet one which instead belongs to the wanderings of the flâneur in search of inspiration, who with a skilled hand armed with a burin, engraves the imprint on street level. The whole is completed by the demand for eternity gathered by the technological eye of the satellite – the ‘from’ – which embodies the avatar of the artist/astronomer, quite at ease in the post-modern era, moving towards science fiction. After all, as Francolino himself declares: “Looking at a crack is like looking at the universe: I reflect on the sense of life and of things.” And along that path of investigation, the crack leads to the places of art, rightly entering the interplay of ambivalences as explored by the artist, from the naturalness of creative human urgency to the artificial superstructure of the social accreditation system.
An articulated work that brings together sculptural materiality and rational calculation. Nature and Artifice, one oscillating within the other, like stones laid in the ground where the perception of what the mineral and chemical materials are may be misleading. It’s never what it looks like at first glance. And in this ambiguity, Francolino opens a crack, breaks down a wall to find the threshold of transformative germination, and to suggest another form of equilibrium in human existence, or at least a path towards it.