Artist Francesco Albano, of Italian descent, based in Buenos Aries, creates a variety of densely sensorial sculptures and line drawings that play with the human form in unexpected ways. Albano’s visuals focus is with bones and decaying flesh, culminating in salt or gravel – natural elements connecting the body to the earth. Sculptures such as Whirlpool and Shipwreck replace water and the hull of a ship with flesh, fat, and ribs. In all his pieces, skin, flesh, and bone are either disconnected from each other, or are melting away from the connective tissue. Bodily forms never seem to retain a spirit, but rather than being mechanized, they are given an ultra-palpable rotting texture, turning the visual grotesque into a nearly tangible element.
The grotesque here creates a very real sense of disorder in the perception of the body, not only in texture, but also in form, particularly in pieces such as the Study of the Prevalence of Neck and Shoulder Disorders in Ballet Dancers. Here, ears are connected to leg-like parts with an upside-down jaw and teeth in place of a neck, disrupting the standard human configuration, most especially the graceful, elongated shapes of a ballet dancer. The grotesque and the disorder in human physicality question human nature itself. As the pieces don’t inspire a sense of spirituality in the typical sense, one wonders what might actually live in some of Albano´s more fully formed pieces. Below, the artist describes his sense of decadence in the display of disorder and collapse that is his oeuvre.
Annunziata Santelli: What attracts you to the grotesque as an artist?
Francesco Albano: I have a strong attraction to deformity as the expression of the physical and mental decadence of the human body. I strive to depict those fleeting moments of personal collapse that modify the mind and the body, causing a breach between muscle, bone, and skin. An emotional breakdown, witness to a division caused by external pressure, is a collapse of intangible weight, and yet so overwhelming that the body is modified and crushed. On a visual level, deformity has its roots firmly planted in reality, in the memory and sensation of the tragic and ironic condition of human existence.
AS: Do you see any aspects of yourself reflected in your sculptures?
FA: What I do is undeniably a natural, yet sometimes fictional, coincidence of some aspects of myself. These are aspects of an enormous, but also miserably small universe haunted by emotions, stories, people, memory, anger, death, light, dreams, joy, pain, travel, places, hands, taste, eyes, landscapes, words, bodies, tears, and nights that I lived, I stole, I borrowed, or perhaps I just heard and remembered.
AS: What does a ballet dancer represent to you in terms of grotesque and disorder? What drew you to manipulating that subject?
FA: The dancer is inspired by La petite danseuse de 14 ans, a murky, obscure, and marvelous work by Degas. My dancers, apart from certain details typical of the subject, do not differ from other works of the same period; I follow my will and my need to deal with certain mental disorders, such as obesity and anorexia, according to the terms and consequences of physical deformity and mutation. This was the subject of Ballerina (2013), which describes the ridiculous clumsiness that is the exhausting exercise of living, the banality of some human efforts, and the dramatic irreconcilability between gravity and levity.
AS: Do you see yourself as changing people's perceptions of life and death?
FA: Mine is an attempt to show the unavoidable decaying of the body in its inhuman attempt to survive life and face death.
Words: Annunziata Santelli
Artist: Francesco Albano