Paolo Pelosini's installations look a little like what would have happened if Fred Sanford had suddenly taken it into his mind to become a vigorously successful contemporary artist. A jumble of collapsed metal shopping carts, the cruel jags of an oil drum's torn exoskeleton, the arrangement of an umbrella's broken, naked spokes and other bits of urban detritus are common visual motifs in Pelosini's work.
But what looks like junk is invaluable quarry to the New York artist. An abandoned file cabinet or a wire hanger is what Pelosini calls "the local stone," and as a contemporary sculptor, he sees the potential for art locked within each object. Unlocking the potential, however, is a process just as unorthodox as the material itself.
"I cut with an ax. The pieces that I will be showing in Spokane have been cut with an ax. Not all of it but most of it," Pelosini explains. "It's the easiest way I've found to take a piece of metal, say a drum or a file cabinet, and tear it apart. You can't do it any better than with an ax."
Born and raised in Italy, educated in Milan and Minnesota, Pelosini currently lives -- and frequently exhibits -- in New York. He's so prolific that he can't immediately remember which of his works he will be showing in Spokane at the SFCC gallery this month. One thing is certain, however. Whatever work Pelosini offers -- either in the installation or in slide form during his lecture here -- it was born in a maelstrom of ax blows and ripping metal.
"I live in a big loft in Tribeca, and my studio is here as well," he says. "My neighbor used to complain about the noise, but he moved and the new person doesn't seem to mind. And as far as dangerous, I cut myself all the time, but that's just part of the process."
While Pelosini's process is born of the impulse to create wreckage, there are certain similar childlike joys to be had. "I'm always happy when I see something red. I like that color," he remarks. "Something like an oil drum with its corrugated metal shape and that color. It's always exciting."
Such abstract constructions seemingly belie the artist's classical art education, but his newer works are informed by a stronger consciousness of the figurative.
"Even the high school I went to was an art school. And that was very classical -- lots of reproductions of Greek statues and other figure-oriented work. I perceived it at the time as being extraordinarily boring, but I learned a lot of things that are useful to me now."
The artist maintains that he uses his work to interpret personal events, or to recognize -- privately -- the people in his life. But beyond that, the meaning in each piece or installation is left up to the viewer.
"I don't name my pieces because if you give the piece a name, you don't give the viewer a chance to have their own ideas about it and make their own connections," he says. "I try not to approach my work with preconceived ideas, and that is what I want for the viewer as well. I want for them to hope to see the unexpected."