Favaretto’s exhibition, her largest to date in the UK, will bring together pivotal pieces spanning two decades of her practice, along with recent works and a major public commission.
The Italian artist’s work addresses sculpture’s mutability and monumentality, often testing its relationship to time; failure, futility and disappearance become generative processes. As Favaretto has said, “I like to shift from perfection to the fall, to push the work to its tipping point, its limit, to endanger it, to the point of making it yield, jam, collapse.”
The exhibition aims to explore a state of uncertainty, where art works become like the remains of events. On display will be 14 enigmatic sculptures titled Bulk (2002), plaster casts of papier-maché carnival masks that were once part of a procession led by Favaretto with young people in Italy. All that remains are the traces of the event. Another work, Relic (2015), a series of nine concrete sculptures, akin to archeological finds, that were cast from the fourth episode in Favaretto’s "Momentary Monument" series, 400 tonnes of collected scrap metal that were presented at dOCUMENTA (13). Only the concrete parts of the installation were kept, like remnants from an unknown past.
Elsewhere in the exhibition will be an eight-metre triptych. Titled 7724-7716 (2016), this is the largest “wool painting” Favaretto has made since she began the series in 2010. Each of these works is made with a single thread of salvaged wool tightly wrapped around a found painting, which becomes almost completely obscured. Another piece, Di Blasi R7 (2012), takes its title from a moped, which will be ridden repeatedly around the galleries before the exhibition opens. All of the gallery walls will be randomly scraped, marked and dented by this “private performance”.
A major new public commission, titled Thinking Head (2017), will comprise clouds of steam slowly rising from the roof of Nottingham Contemporary. On some days these clouds of vapour will be intense; on others, barely visible. Completely uncontrolled by the artist, the steam will move in shifting patterns – forming plumes, wisps, complex shapes. The inspiration for Favaretto’s project is Alighiero e Boetti’s final sculpture, from 1993. Sometimes called My Brain is Smoking (1993), this bronze self-portrait is electrically heated; the artist is thinking so hard that his head is steaming. Favaretto has said she wanted to turn a museum into a 'thinking machine'. At Nottingham Contemporary, the intensity of the steam clouds above will correspond to the intensity of the thinking happening inside. On dull days, there will be little steam. At certain moments, it might be billowing. The other half of this work is subterranean and out of sight. Details of this secret project may or may not be revealed in the future.