Andrea Galvani’s Invisible Sculptures

The Italian artist explores the meaning of experience in his New York Meulensteen Gallery show
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Andrea Galvani, A Few Invisible Sculptures #1 (2011/2012), C-print on aluminium dibond, edition of 49.2 x 68.9 inches, Courtesy of the  artist and Meulensteen, NY
Andrea Galvani, A Few Invisible Sculptures #1 (2011/2012), C-print on aluminium dibond, edition of 49.2 x 68.9 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Meulensteen, NY

Using ephemeral elements like sound, scent, and conversation - in addition to rather more tangible drawings and photographs - as his tools, Italian artist and Andrea Galvani challenges traditional notions of sculpture. New York’s Meulensteen gallery is the host to Galvani’s first solo exhibition Andrea Galvani: A Few Invisible Sculptures, which features photographs from a recent trip to the North Pole where he used scent to deliberately attract the attention of wild polar bears. Another work features recordings of the echolocation of a group of bats around three suspended sculptures created by Galvani. The only record of these structures' existence is the recording of the bats' sonar - something that is completely alien to a human being's perception of space. Thus they are essentially 'invisible'. We asked him a few questions about the show. 

What is the significance of the title 'A Few Invisible Sculptures'?

The exhibition at Meulensteen in New York is an attempt to call accepted definitions of sculpture into question, to ask what we are talking about when we talk about sculpture and perhaps extend those boundaries. The works in the show deal with phenomenology, with a sort of architecture of the invisible. A Few Invisible Sculptures #1, the large photograph installed on the floating wall at the beginning of the show, captures a performance I staged in one of the oldest clay pits known in Europe. Now abandoned as an open museum, the clay pits supplied materials for terracotta artefacts and sculptures for over four centuries of human development. For my intervention in this historically loaded landscape, I constructed a geometric steel sculpture and used it to replace the fuel tank on a motocross bike. The volume of fuel was translated into discrete action by instructing a rider to drive the bike in a continuous loop until all of the fuel was spent. The resulting sculpture takes the form of an excavation, translating the volume of fuel into a displaced volume of clay.

A Cube, a sphere, a pyramid Andrea Galvani, A cube, a sphere, and a pyramid #5 (2011), C-print on aluminium dibond, edition of 5, 27.1 inches x 38.9 inches, courtesy of the artist and Meulensteen, NY

What role does sound play in this exhibition?

In A Sphere, a Cube, and a Pyramid, an audio track documents the echolocation of a group of bats flying around three suspended sculptures that I created and later destroyed. The recording provides a sonar scan of the negative space around the objects, which is then played back at an audible frequency in an immersive installation of 10 standing speakers. There is a text piece in the show that also describes a transcript of a conversation I had with a deaf and dumb researcher I met on my flight to the North Pole.

Higgs Ocean #7, 2009/2010

Higgs Ocean #7, 2009/2010 C-print mounted on aluminum dibond
Courtesy of the artist and Meulensteen, NY

What have you been working on at the North Pole?

I’ve been there three times since 2009. During the first trip I developed the Higgs Ocean Project for the Fourth Moscow Biennial (2011). The project documents a series of actions staged off the coast of the Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Circle. Over the course of a 2,800 km sail, I used two photovoltaic panels to collect and store the natural energy of the limited daily sunlight. I used the accumulated energy to power a flashlight capable of projecting a beam of light through the Earth's atmosphere - within a few minutes, the luminescent memory of my journey had been returned to the universe.

Higgs Ocean #16, 2011

Higgs Ocean #16, 2011 Photo collage
Courtesy of the artist and Meulensteen, NY

And what did you do on your most recent trip?

The most recent trip was sort of a crazy project. Over the course of six months I prepared for it with a team of scientists. I wanted to use smell to attract polar bears. In the beginning I didn’t know if it was going to be possible, but we were successful in the end. In the North Pole, bears are really aggressive. You’re not supposed to go on land without a professional hunter. When I realised that polar bears were everywhere, but that it wasn’t possible to get close to them, I started to think about a way to capture an image from an impossible perspective. The resulting photographs are in the gallery now. Andrea Galvani: A Few Invisible Sculptures is at Meulensteen until April 21.


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