FLAVIO BISCIOTTI: OBJECTS AND META-OBJECTS
By Peter Frank
All but dissolved over the course of a century, the boundary between fine and functional art is still a realm of exploration and play for artists coming at it from either side. Flavio Bisciotti comes at it, in effect, from both sides. Trained as an architect, the Argentine-born, Los Angeles-based artist-designer responds to the world equally in painting and in furniture design, in two dimensions and in three, in graphic expression and in material, in line and in substance. His chairs, tables, and other objects for the home and studio betray an artist’s extravagance and a designer’s economy, an architect’s logic and a poet’s fantasy. He makes pictorial and useful things alike out of observation — the creative eye, embracing all it sees —- out of meditation — the becalmed soul, contemplating ergonomic and spiritual needs alike — and out of desperation — the awakened mind, responding to calamity. For Bisciotti, the eye’s adventure answers to the body’s needs — and vice versa.
In his furniture Bisciotti delights in the dynamic interaction of geometric forms, in essence creating classic abstract compositions out of chair legs and back rests, as well as out of substances whose colors and textures interact in lively contretemps. The seats and tables read immediately as non-objective sculptures, all vivid angles and odd joins; they seem to dare you to sit or place things on them. But, for all their frisson of sabotage, these structures are sturdy and, more surprisingly, comfortable to occupy. In this they pay knowing homage to De Stijl and the Bauhaus, reminding us that, 80-100 years on, Rietveld’s reclining chaise and the Barcelona Stuhl still look more forbidding than inviting, but, once occupied, envelop the sitter in a startlingly sensuous experience. Bisciotti adores and emulates this High Modernist tradition, making him something of a Neo-Modernist. Where the Neo comes in, where Flavio diverges from Oud and Mondrian, Kandinsky and Breuer, is in his incorporation of raw and/or recycled materials, even discarded forms. Bisciotti is not an assemblagist per se, but he appreciates the ad hoc energy of the assemblage approach, in life as in art. Los Angeles, a vast field of discards, inspires him, as do the generations of assemblage artists — some of whom are his close friends — who take advantage of southern California’s recycle culture.
If Bisciotti can appear as ad hoc as his assembling compeers, he can and has fully committed himself to assemblage techniques and methods in the face of personal tragedy and loss. A fire almost four years ago destroyed much of his Venice home and studio. Rather than immobilize him, the event spurred him to inventive response, prompting him to make the most of what was left. The charred and doused detritus became “filler” material for a series of large seats made out of transparent acrylic — seemingly cobbled together, but in fact carefully and lovingly fashioned. Their contents were treated with similar respect; for all their wounded grime, the books and papers and personal items Flavio rescued (well, half-rescued, half-disinterred) from the flames comprise a portrait of the artist and his milieu. The bulky, boxy structures entombing this stuff are thus not simple coffins for inanimate keepsakes, but sarcophagi for the remains of a civilization, as maintained by one of that civilization’s artists. As you sit on these chairs and couches, or even just inspect them, you feel a presence radiating out of them, a time and place bigger than a house fire and bigger than a single human. It is the early 21st century, roiling with the spirit of change and rising, continually, from the ashes.
Bisciotti paints architecture — paints whole towns, really — as the meeting place of design, space, and history. His canvases thrum with an urban strangeness, a De Chirico-like sense of an overfull emptiness born of longing and curiosity. In his furniture, Bisciotti moves from eye to hand to give solid form to that longing and curiosity, and to mitigate that overfullness with something palpable, reassuring, yet as vital as the metropolitan, and modernist, spirit they celebrate. Flavio Bisciotti would bring the urban germ back to us, as much in his assertive, cleverly built furniture as in his poignantly described paintings and drawings. Take a seat and live amongst the edifices.