Fausto Melotti: Counterpoint at Estorick Collection
Fausto Melotti (1901-1986) is well-known and admired in his native Italy, but his work is almost unknown elsewhere. The new exhibition at the Estorick Collection is the first institutional show of the artist’s work in the UK, and it suggests that this modern master has been unfairly overlooked.
Organised in collaboration with Milan’s Fondazione Fausto Melotti, the exhibition spans the subject’s career and draws out key themes in his oeuvre. Melotti was evidently something of a polymath: he studied mathematics, physics and electrical engineering alongside sculpture and the piano in Pisa and Milan in the 1920s. The multiplicity of his areas of expertise comes through in his work, which combines mathematically engineered precision with aesthetic harmony and allusions to classical music.
Visual motifs recalling musical clefs and staves abound, while suspended pendulums recall both physics experiments and windchimes. Many of Melotti’s elegant compositions incorporate elements that hang in the gallery’s shifting air currents, utilising perforated moving elements that mesmerise the eye through changing perspectives and fluctuating focus points.
Everything in this show is sparse and precise, echoing the powerful simplicity of the artist’s friend Lucio Fontana, or his contemporary Alberto Giacometti. A 1979 work, The Harlequin’s Bride, is particularly enticing: using minimal materials, Melotti presents a dreamlike image of a couple in a chariot-like bed, composed from thick wire as if sketched in mid-air. The works on paper are also intriguing, where a grid-like structure, freely applied paint and a muted palette with flashes of neon suggest a tension between order and chaos.
The works in this exhibition uniquely combine a playful sense of poetry with an almost scholarly investigation into the mathematical properties of proportion, harmony and musical counterpoint. The result is an elegance that is simultaneously whimsical and rigorous, and a delight to experience.
Featured Image: Fausto Melotti, Giardino pensile (Hanging Garden), 1970
(courtesy of Fondazione Fausto Melotti and Hauser & Wirth)
Fausto Melotti: Counterpoint is at Estorick Collection from 16th January until 7th April 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.