Capsule Shanghai is pleased to present Looking Back, Alessandro Teoldi's (b. 1987 in Milan, Italy) second solo exhibition at the gallery, featuring a series of brand-new works made of ceramic and fabric. In Teoldi's expressive vocabulary, the dialogue between these two mediums produces astounding plastic, formal, and poetic effects.
The Italian-born artist, who has lived in New York for the last twelve years, mainly works with fabric, so he will also show a large, varied, and powerful selection of textile works in this exhibition. To create collages joined with needle and thread rather than glue, Teoldi cuts simple yet softly contoured geometric shapes out of various industrial and handcrafted fabrics, which, once sewn together, form simplified human figures.
For Teoldi, the materiality of the fabrics is very important, and he chooses each one for its natural colour or tactile qualities. He sews these pieces of fabric himself. The process allows him absolute control over the development of the work, but also over himself as he carries out a sort of intimate inner dialogue that turns into an almost meditative exercise.
In their anthropological references, these essential figures—almost brutal in their extreme formal synthesis—recall the shadows reflected on a magical organic screen: the rock wall of Plato's cave, toward which primitive men looked, adoring, to see the large shadows cast by the firelight behind them.
As a whole and in their details, these works, imbued with delicate nuances, tell a universal tale: the poignant poetry of our moments of joy, tenderness, melancholy, and abandonment experienced on this earth. The Earth itself always appears as if in passing, suggested by important and unexpected portions of landscape. Situated behind human bodies caught in the act of embracing, touching, caressing, or fighting, the landscape is a discrete entrée into the infinite panic of Nature, sometimes devoid of spatial or environmental references, but filled with existential ones.
Standing out against these flat yet dense spaces, the figures intertwine their bodies and almost become signals or signifieds of a modular, rhythmic language that inevitably tends towards abstraction. Teoldi's visual communication is so powerful because of his superb ability to translate a succession of human bodies into this harmonious and abstract ensemble. In their archaism, they recall the primitives of the Italian Renaissance: Masaccio and Giotto. Much closer to our time, the everyday forms of American Pop Art, excessively replicated and overly simplified, had the same abstracting effect thanks to the repetition and rhythmic alternation of visual elements.
On closer inspection, the bodies that Teoldi stitches and recomposes have a plastic quality; they seem to naturally aspire to the solidity of sculpture. As a result, his decision to embrace the language of ceramic art appears quite natural. The series of terracotta sculptures and high reliefs on view were created in summer 2022 in Albisola. Teoldi chose to engage with this ancient technique and lived for more than a month inside one of Albisola's historic ceramic factories, Ernan Design Studio. Teoldi did not feel intimidated by his time in a factory that had also made pieces by artists such as Lucio Fontana and Arturo Martini, who have certainly made their mark on modern and contemporary art. On the contrary, it has stirred in him the need for an honest and humble confrontation based on dialogue and the concreteness of a plastic medium. Above all, the work of Martini, who called himself 'the Etruscan of the twentieth century,' inspired Teoldi to engage with human figures and bodies. In Teoldi's work, they stand unknowing and unaware of their destiny, reminiscent of Picasso's acrobats.
Alessandro Teoldi responds to the metaphysics of the 1930s with the hyper-modernity of our time. Just like in his fabric works, the purity of the terracotta biscuit, without any glaze or color, is the starting point for this body of work that reflects on the relationship between forms, volumes, and essential lines used to define the portrayed bodies. In the reliefs, the profiles are engraved and furrowed with firm cuts. With these pieces, Teoldi has reached a new stage in his visual research: he merges the delicacy of the design with the radical nature of collages made of stitched fabric. The truth hidden in the material finds a direct connection to the truth of the artist's gesture: the hand that sews the fabric is the same hand that presses, removes, or spreads the clay.
Press release courtesy Capsule Shanghai.
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