Fourteenth episode of the program “Pralines. Deliciousness from the world of art” by Ly thi Thanh Thao and Sergio Mandelli dedicated to Luciano Minguzzi.
Luciano Minguzzi is a sculptor born in Bologna in 1911.
Though son of Armando Minguzzi (1880-1940), a talented sculptor, he considers himself part of the class of laborers and peasants.
Of this class he underlines the rough materiality, the closeness to animals, the olfactory contact with manure.
The key episode of his artistic life takes place when he is six.
The First World War is in full swing: the child, together with his mother, is taking refuge at his grandparents’.
Curling himself up, he peeps, under his aunt’s skirt, at her buttocks.
The agitation felt at the discovery of the female body has transformed itself into a kind of ecstasy.
In 1931 Luciano Minguzzi enters the Academy of Bologna, under the guidance of Ercole Drei. But his points of reference are Medardo Rosso, with his research on light modulating the volumes of sculptures, and Arturo Martini, with his research on the expressivity of materials.
But he feels attracted, above all, by the Romanesque sculpture, of which he particularly admires the crucifix of the Master of Saint Anastasia. He also admires its popular content through the obscene figures present in medieval churches.
The vicissitude that leaves an indelible trace in his life is the war: he lives it as a painful and sensual aesthetic experience.
He himself confesses: “I had my eyes popping out of my head in order to catch everything.”
For example, after the bombardment of September 27,1943 corpses are described as “no longer those of human beings, but peeled forms of manikins”.
He can’t but notice that “from the ruins emerge two nude split legs displaying a woman’s bluish pubis”.
On December 1944, he insists on going to see the partisans of Casalecchio, hanged by barbed wire two days before. He is struck by “chapped mouths shrunk by long teeth biting grimacing tongues”.
In Minguzzi’s world, the obscenity, in other words, the displaying of all that is usually concealed, becomes aesthetic and spiritual experience: the vision and the knowledge of sex, of excrements, of blood, of death put him into contact with the primitive force that moves nature.
The carnality of his sculptures is evidently seen right at the beginning, so much so that his “Eva” presented at the Venice Biennial in 1942 provokes a certain embarrassment.
Afterwards, there are some subjects that give testimony to the love for the exhibition of forms, such as The Jugglers and The Contortionists.
His female figures are characterized by the volume of buttocks and of breasts, by the opening of legs, by the splitting that signals sex, the splitting that often transforms itself into a wound that rips through the stomach (Two sitting figures, 1973).
In fact eroticism, by nature, often adjoin the reign of death.
This wound, once again, describes his war experience. In the group “Men of Lager”, two figures reduced to anthropomorphic larva remind us of the description of the dead under the bombardment, manikins packed in an iron packaging that has nothing to do with the sepulcher, but more or less, with a cabinet in a museum of natural history.
The “Swimmers” represent one of the last phases of Minguzzi’s research. Three great sculptures, with superhuman efforts, highlighted by a mouth that recalls the one described for the hanged of Casalecchio, search for their own way in the afterworld dimension , no longer in the historical one.
Another recurring theme is that of animals, for example The Dog among the Canes (1950), a dramatic figure desperately trying to get free from the tangle where he finds himself.
This spiritual tension, with which paradoxically his art is imbued, honors him with the assignment to realize works of extraordinary religious importance, among which are the Fifth Door of Duomo of Milan and the Door of the Good and the Evil of Saint Peter’s. Both are commissioned by Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
These works put us in front of one of the peaks of the twentieth century sculpture, a result obtained through decades of meditation on the vital force in every human being, a force that manifests itself to the utmost through experiences of eroticism and of suffering.