Industrial Archaeologies

We shall sing the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the yards set ablaze by violent electrical moons(...) the factories hung from the clouds by the contorted ribbons of their smoke(...) the bridges leaping like giant athletes hurling over rivers(...) the broad-chested locomotives, prancing on the rails like great steel horses harnessed by long pipes
From Futuristic Manifesto by F.T.Marinetti

How distant, in the work of Gianfranco Gentile, is the fervour, the glorification of engineering that so strongly characterized futurism and that for so long influenced the 1900's. As distant as the mythological science fiction populated by anthropomorphic machines, built on that imagery loaded with the ghosts of slavery, domination and of exploitation that finds its maximum expression with HAL, the computer-spaceship of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Yes, all this is distant, it's archaeology, and as such it is presented to us by Gianfranco Gentile in his work of excavation of the memory. Archaeological finds that recall a whole civilisation, a social organisation, a thought process that echoes itself in Gentile's work, but that is never brought to the fore, never boasting.
In this, the works of Gentile demonstrate a particular discretion. They are very refined, polished, carried out with great technique and absolute control of the method of expression. They are works that are highly communicative and evocative, but what surprises above all is that they grant nothing to the pragmatic or ludist rhetoric tied to the evolution of engineering. It's a new imagery, that which is presented by the artist from Verona. A simple imagery made of little things, of small details, of abandoned and dusty objects. They are, perhaps, objects, useless and definitely unused, often rusty and obsolete, but absolutely not decadent. Gentile's machines are old ladies that remain beautiful because of the memory which they evoke. They are memories embellished by a layer of nostalgia. Exhibits that are methodically catalogued and inserted in sequence with the love and care equal to a family photo album. Strange pearls on a surprising necklace.
Gentile's vision offers us the small detail of an old jewel that re-emerges from an excavation. The irregularity on the thread of a bolt, the simplicity of the lines that make up the ponderous structure of the machinery, the details on the cogs of a mechanism, in essence, the aesthetic surprise of the detail.
These are the cornerstones of Gentile's paintings and poetry.
But above all it's a work that doesn't linger on predetermined ideals or antiquated theoretical machinations.
The machine has surely represented for all of the last century a reflection of man, his soul but also his nightmare. It stimulated the hopes of generations of human beings, it materialised their ghost of self destruction, it offered the foundation for grandiose and utopian revolutions, be they political or social, it became a point of reference for many philosophical speculations. But in these works, which at a first superficial glance seem to insert themselves into this series, for all of this there is no space.
Gentile's machines are exactly what you see: decorations of a container, decorations of discarded packaging. Old standards of an equally old and surpassed industrial civilisation. It's in the choice of the framework that the author offers us a key to the fundamental reading of all his work of research and record-keeping.
The machines are none other than old empty boxes. Packages that have certainly contained all of the imagery developed in the past century, abundant with anthropomorphic projections, of all those suggestions that I have recalled, but through Gentile's visions lose all those frameworks so as to offer themselves simply as beautiful images.
A beauty that lingers on the form and that, through the use of earthy colours and of slashes of light, reconnects to the bigger and secular tradition of still life painting. But thanks to this disenchanted observation, that gives back to the represented object its immediate physicality, guides us to the subtraction of the ideal.
Nothing remains of the machine but pure geometric form, placated by nostalgia and the memory of a long gone time, but still remains pure form. And it's in this predilection of the form that one notices the only connection with the memory of the artist, with his private and professional life, which sees him engaged with the production of theatrical sets and objects of interior design. Those represented are forms that, despite their heavy and ferrous presence, gain, thanks to the always surprising points of view assumed by Gentile, lightness and an estranged spirituality.

Translated by Roberto Tavoni