CORTONA PROFILES - NO. 6

Famous for his wild boar sculptures, there is a lot more to Antonio Massarutto than simply creating works of art...

It’s no coincidence that sculptor/designer Antonio Massarutto was celebrating World Earth Day – April 22nd – preparing a land-art project in North Macedonia because ‘Art as Nature’ or ‘Nature as Art’, could not be a more apt juxtaposition of his work.
Originating from Pordenone (in Friuli Venezia Giulia), he attended both the Cordenons State Institute of Art and the Academy of Applied Arts in Milan, but it may well have been his more informal training, growing up in a family with an animal-taxidermist as a father, that provided him with the real substance for his future work.
From a young age he observed his father and assisted him in the laboratory which no doubt lay the foundations for his profound knowledge of animal morphology which lies at the base of much of his inspiration.  In fact, as an advocate of ‘slow walking’, Antonio explains how he often finds himself observing branches and twigs while out and about and visualizing in his mind’s eye, muscles, joints, ligaments and the dynamism of the animals that frequent those parts. Always accompanied by Beau, his dog, Antonio describes how these meanders are important, actually crucial, to his work (never more so than during the various stages of Covid restrictions); enabling him to lose himself in a meditative path, essential for his artistic realisation.
Intricately designed animals are the most prominent subjects of his expansive jewellery collection, predominantly made out of bronze, and classified under a number of collections: Etruscan, organic, link, olives, bestiarium and horn.
It was only later in his career that he turned his focus to large-scale animal sculptures, initially working with terracotta, wood and marble, but over time exploring recycled materials such as iron wire, wire mesh, metals, plastic and even old sofa fabrics and jeans – never distancing himself from nature’s abundance of materials.
In 2021, Antonio showed his works in the ‘Urban Soul’ exhibition where his sculptures were displayed across the town Castelfiorentino in the province of Florence.  Made out of plastic, building site tarpaulins and other recycled materials, his polar bears welcomed you to the museum, his wild boar were gathered outside the train station, a rhinoceros was installed on the terrace of the theatre and a small flock of sheep were being eyed by a lone wolf. Through his work, Antonio continuously invites us to look at ourselves from the perspective of animals: our fragility, our consumerism, our safety nets, our fears. 
Later in the same year, he embarked on a new Land Art project called the ‘Francigena Soul’. He created seven installations along the Via Francigena, fashioning wild boars (the ultimate representatives of Tuscany), foxes, wolves, roe deer, from natural materials collected along the way -  branches, twigs, shrubs and leaves - intending them as transitory works which would disintegrate over time, much as a life cycle determined by nature.
For Antonio, these installations represent a link to nature, spirituality and art;  he conceived them as spirit-guides to accompany passers-by along this famous pilgrimage route. The project reflects his personal appeal for slow walking as a means towards ‘sustainable tourism’, the development of sustainable cultural tourism and the enhancement of Tuscany’s cultural diversity.
Currently on display at the CasermArcheologia in Sansepolcro (until 11th June), is Antonio’s exhibition entitled "Archaeological Bestiary", where his animals take their shape through the use of organic materials and vegetable essences. The project grew out of a collaboration with the Liceo Città di Piero, bringing students into contact with artists; encounters that are due to continue for the duration of the exhibition.
The artistic residency programme that Antonio was attending during the week of World Earth Day is a major cross-border, long-term project. The ‘Macedonia Art as Nature’ Project, promoted and financed by the Italian Embassy in Macedonia and organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture of North Macedonia, is divided into two phases.
Accompanied by Roberto Ghezzi (artist, friend, co-exhibitor), they spent a week in the Macedonian National Park of Shar Planina getting to know the territory in which the two artists will interface. Building upon this initial study of the park’s ecosystem, they will create large sculptural, pictorial and installation works, which will be exhibited in October (during the second phase) at the Macedonian Contemporary Art Museum in Skopje.
Antonio has held solo shows at Atelier Fabrizio Milesi in Gubbio, Palazzo Ferretti and Fortezza del Girfalco in Cortona, the Francigena routes, and the Rocca di Umbertide. He has exhibited at events and festivals such as the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Pitti Uomo in Florence, the Art City White Night - Arte Fiera in Bologna, and the Festival del Verde e del Paesaggio in Rome. He has recently presented his work at the Galerie Isabelle Lesmeister in Regensburg, Germany, and the Olgiate Comasco Art Gallery - GALP.
You can visit Antonio’s showroom in Cortona, on Via Nazionale 67, and read more about him (in Italian) on his website http://www.antoniomassarutto.it
Lucy Wood, 12/05/2022 10:26:23
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