Mainolfi 1987Favole - Rudi Fuchs

They are visual fairy-tales, the works of Mainolfi. Tender inventions. Mainolfi is a very gentle artist. After Minimal Art and large-scale Pop painting, the idea lingered on that modern Art should be tough and dramatic. Gentleness with materials and gentleness with details (so that also small thing remain intact and are not forgotten) is not, at present, an easy position. The drama of the World, as it now is, seems to command a different, a more heroic attitude. That may be fine for those who have the talent for that. When certain poets, for instance Ezra Pound, were giving poetry a new rigour (making it the belligerent and eloquent language of History itself) there were others who could not take their eyes away from flowers in the window, the ca_ffettiera on the table, a woman's breast in the morning light or the trees in the Garden. Whatever you want to do, however dramatic, one poet said, I will keep to the soft creaking of the laundry basket. Morandi observed bottles entering the light, Modigliani the soft outline of thigh and belly; the long shadows in De Chirico's paintings are enigmatic and tender. They are not invented shapes, abstract and awkward, but shapes seen and remembered as he walked in the city at dusk. One of the great and typical poets is Ungaretti:

Era una notte urbana,
Rosea e sulfurea era la poca luce
Dove, come da un muoversi dell'ombra, Pareva salisse la forma.

As I have said before, it is very difficult for an Italian artist to slip away from seductions of Beauty. This has, in many cases prevented Italian art to assume an active role in the rough dialectic of Modern Art. Of course there were exceptions: the Futurists at their best moment, before they died young orjoined la Metafisica.
There were Fontana, Burri, Vedova - later Arte Povera. But even Fontana's great Tagli, meant to be dramatic and iconoclastic, are also very beautiful; there is a strange, aesthetic control in these paintings that eventually gives them the fine crispness of ceramics.
Thus the ochre and red in some of Mainolfi's early landscapes in terracotta recall the vibrant, energetic colours of Giuseppe Pellizza's famous Fiumana; and some of the strange shapes (between village and mountain and tree) located on high, terracotta pedestals are, in their design, as refined as a Morandi still-life.
And why not? Art aspires to be universal; but the reality of the artist are his local surroundings. There is an intimacy of place and profound knowledge which, somehow, have to be at the centre of an artists imagination. Imagination starts which real things: thing observed, things remembered, things borrowed. In a certain sense all art is a form of dialect, - at the beginning at least. Later the pure quality of the artist's intelligence and craft may give the local or personal anecdote a greater and wider significance and relevance. The poet Patrick Kavanagh wrote a poem about a quarrel between two Irish families. It happened in 1939, the year of the Munich bother - and Kavanagh asked himself whether that was not a much more important, momentous event.
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mi.nd. He said: I made the Iliad.from such
A local row.
So the works of Luigi Mainolfi carry the detailed characteristics of a very personal imagination. What do all those curious shapes and forms signify? I do not know unless he tells me. But I see certain details that I recognise: trees, plants, buildings, fruits, shells or things like them. A pyramid covered with small signs of windows like the Tower of Babel. The works are like fairy-tales, I said, and therefore we could interpret or see this works as stories and anecdotes from strange, exciting, far-away places that exist in dreams, like Calvino's Invisible Cities. Only, now we see them, in all their local beauty that I find hard to resist.

Rudi Fuchs

from Mainolfi Fabbri Edition 1995 -  Mainolfi Umberto Allemandi Edition 1997