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Baracche , 2020

Float glass, tropicalised iron, led realised in collaboration with Cristal King glassware

Different sizes


Unique pieces,

Camp Commission, 2016 on going



Photo credit/

Federico Floriani

baracca s. f. [from Catalan barraca (probably pre-Roman voice), through the Spanish]. - 1. Temporary construction, general. of wood with metal sheet or asbestos cover, for sheltering people or goods.

In 1906 Giuseppe Ungaretti met Enrico Pea, poet, writer, dramatist and theatrical impresario, who recently moved to Egypt, with whom gave life to the Baracca Rossa, a marble and timber warehouse that soon became the venue for meetings for anarchists and socialists. But not only. Here Ungaretti had the opportunity to get in touch with several intellectuals and writers from all over the world, essential for his educational enrichment. The cabin is therefore a physical place and at the same time a metaphor for a relational and creative process poised between anarchy and control, poetry and rationality. But still with humble, precarious roots, marked by transience. Unlike the hut-sophisticated machine-à-habiter (think of Le Cabanon by Le Corbusier), an intellectual shelter, an ideal existenzminimum - the hut conceals, not too subtly, the prodromes of imperfection, imbalance, fragility. When in 2016 Paolo Gonzato designed the first series of Baracche as part of Operae in Turin - a brilliant dialogue between the designer, Camp Design Gallery in Milan and the artisan know how of the Turin glass factory Cristal King - he had a very specific vision in mind: “Instant architecture”,
“bric-à-brac constructions”.

By carrying out an operation of appropriation and decontextualization (sometimes forcing the technical-executive limits) Gonzato isolates a part of the whole - the corrugated sheet metal constituting the roof of the hut - creating it a luminous body, changing its axis and inclination, making it sculptural . He monumentalizes, ennobles, transforms, and dramatizes scraps and preexisting fragments, initially poor, and translates them into precious glass. This action of recovery, transformation and transmutation of materials - whether paper, ceramic, marble or glass, in fact - is recurrent in Gonzato’s practice, already evident in one of his first works in 2001, part of the series The Sound of Ego: a bale of hay wrapped in a hot pink satin ribbon. Is it a sculpture of a poor nature in salsa camp? A seat reminding the Straw Chair by Alessandro Mendini from 1975? An ironic fake Christo packaging? Glamor that envelops the bucolic, high and low merge. Cheap and chic, one might say, to take up the name of the famous perfume - almost a claim - by Moschino, surely one of the references of the artist and designer for the subversive design approach. Gonzato plays and slides between disciplines and techniques - from art to fashion to design, from painting to installation - while maintaining constant rigor and consistency. He assimilates and makes his own from the lessons of some Italian Masters, whom he loved, also elusive to rigid categorizations and disciplinary hierarchies. In his works the Pontian decoration echoes - and how not to think of the lozenge, an element taken from the costume of Arlecchino, reiterated in numerous paintings and collages by Gonzato - the charm of Pesce’s imperfection, the anthropology of Mendini’s objects, Munari’s aleatory nature, Sottsass’s eroticism and sacredness.

With his Baracche Gonzato outlines an aesthetic of precariousness, marginality - “a smoothie of brutalism and mall ruins, Baracche is the semantic reduction from a house to a caricature”, in the artist’s words - that can be placed in an open path from the simulacra of construction sites of the installation L’isola delle rose of 2012 or Achtung! Frisch Gestrichen of 2015. A fascination for ruin and transient that is also found in the recent studies on Giambattista Piranesi merged into the Pastiche series of ceramics of 2020.
With his new Baracche, Gonzato resumes and expands previous research, coming to deal with the type of chandelier to re- semantize it in a goliardic and grotesque key.
Finally, I like to think of a vernacular regional connotation of the expression “fare shack”, which means “partying”, but also “making noise, confusion”.
It is the perfect translation of Gonzato’s work. The chaotic joy of designing.

Damiano Gullì

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