Martin Stather – Annotations to the sculpted works of Alfio Giuffrida

It is a pleasure to remember one’s childhood, playing with teddy bears, toy trains and the very first metal building set. There were lots of different elements to
be combined with screws and one’s own imagination (or that given in the instructions) really had no boundaries.
In Art, systems which work with modules are more or less the exception. One is more likely to find some examples in concrete Art: such as in variations of a form canon which sets basic structures, to then handle them in either a playful or mathematical computation.
Alfio Giuffrida uses a module system which has no existence as yet but which he defines, which grows from his own invention. The individual parts however remind one of prefabricated parts, which seem to spring from a rather industrial connection, not at all related to art. Varnished or chrome plated, the three-dimensional objects seem curiously aloof, as an example of pertinent industrial shaping. The chrome plated or galvanized skeletons, made of narrow pipe material, are like portals, passageways into another world. In their fragility and transparency they appear, at first glance, like scaffolding, skeletons, which only tentatively describe a spatial body, determine its outlines, but don’t fill a real volume. Giuffridas image works soar into the room almost like silhouettes, light and ephemeral but also of a tectonic nature, which conveys solidity and peace. They make the human body their measure, describe, and circumscribe its form over and over again in varying fashion.

Then there are the works of painted flat steel, which form figures, are often movable. The variability of these works, which keep individual parts as fold-outs and shape-changing through joints, is, however always conceptualised towards a symmetry axis, which divides the works. The human body also makes its appearance in this relatively regulated symmetry, is the measure of all things. Giuffrida abstracts from the body, to reach new figurations which give the room, but only at first glance, a strange bi-sexual characteristic, by showing the duality of two and three dimensionality. Like a figure with shadows, the flat bodies double and penetrate into their surrounding space. In a basic folded-
up form, these works are conceptual – first the folding out, the numerous variations in the area of factual options awaken them to life, let changes be recognised as a contextual concept. This turns the sculpture into a concept of movement, the moveability and changeability do not become an attribute, but the goal of the work. Giuffrida counts on the mental flexibility of the observer, who is not necessarily asked to conduct a change himself, but who understands the idea behind the moveability, and who can follow it. The transitory moment becomes the constituating one of the sculpture, the imagination of the observer the main objective of the artistic approach. A relatively strict and easily followable static initially seems to contradict this idea; but it is exactly the transition from one figure to a possible next one, which lets the sculpture pause and find a new, firmly structured figure over and over again.

One characteristic of Giuffrida’s constructions is the transparency of the construction. Combining elements are shown openly, nothing is hidden, so that the moveability is directly obvious. Undressed to a minimum, the works present in an austere beauty and embody the aesthetic of ‘form follows function’. The simulation of industrially prefabricated parts is perfect, however all parts are manufactured according to the artist’s design. It is precisely this simulation, the manual execution of parts which are subconsciously accompanied by the odour of a large serial production, the hint of a pre-industrial production, which makes the contact surfaces between daily cognisance and artistic production. Giuffrida conducts the transfer of industrial aesthetics into the canon of artistic work in a very radical manner, lets the visual differences disappear, thereby creating an additional moment of irritation with the observer. Popular aesthetic criteria of looking at art have to fail of course, but it creates access to the observer’s world of experience in daily contexts instead.

In his new production, the artist increasingly uses found items, small insignificant parts made of plastic, as we meet them on a daily basis. Having initially started to supplement plastic CD covers with metal parts in serial production, he now fills transparent plastic packaging with coloured items, which appear to be like sets offered in department stores in the haberdashery or tool departments for an unknown purpose. Aesthetic samples are tried
out in ever changing combinations, which exude the perfection of mass production, but also make the randomness of the used forms clear. This randomness is only neutralized in the conscious, artistic construction of the corresponding composition. Here, Giuffrida also encourages the observer to an own artistic performance by offering these sets as Do-it-yourself sets, where the buyer can always decide how and which supplied forms he uses for his very own, individual project. Unique works of art are created in this way, the artist having delivered only the concept, but which are, at the same time, an implicit part of his artistic production. The interaction between artist and observer is thus turned into the central interface of Alfio Giuffrida’s art.
There can be no doubt that Giuffrida has taken the path of radical aesthetics with his sculptures, which hits the nerve of the post-industrial society in its everyday experience. Whether in pocketsize or larger-than-life format, his works always find the right measure, are, highly unusual, not clearly determinable in their size, as they function in every format. The new set wall creations, which absolutely need the series to clarify the idea behind them, are definitely conceivable in a bigger and much bigger version.
Of late, the artist has been calling his production A.G.Sinnwerke; what he indicates with that is the conveyance of artistic practise and even the transfer of the same to the art consumer and therefore a link of art and production. For the observer, the A.G.Sinnwerke produce meaningfulness and haptic sensuality in equal measure, they create reality in art, which is logically traceable and poetical at the same time.

Mannheim, June 2004