In Adolf Vallazza’s imagination, wood is the natural mean towards fulfilment and vital concreteness. A mean which is natural to him as much as an ordinary writing action. I would say it is the mean through which he can recognise himself, giving voice to the thoughts, feelings, moods, anxieties, dreams and hopes of his own personal existence. Since wood is not only Nature, being obviously a natural material, being in itself sign and memory of Nature; it is also part of his own private nature, that of the Gardena valley. In that land, wood means the daily material for carrying out any action of work, defence, survival, creation. A daily collation of the imagination and the senses. Yet, wood means also history, and more precisely the history of his own land and its anthropological culture. A history of construction and crafts: buildings, objects, memorial and votive icons, that represent, before becoming the objects of nowadays exportation, a solution to problems of survival: the construction of shelters, tools, and icons of memory and worship.
And wood also means to Vallazza the ancestral material of work of his own family. Thus, it is a material in which he can collate a personal loyalty, through which he can express a continuity, an ancestral and secular heritage. Yet, the perception of that material as ancient and familiar does not imply a passive adjustment, on the contrary, it enacts an active and planning participation. In fact, wood means to Vallazza the culture at the highest level of creative formulation of our times. The same perception is a warning, pointing at the various possibilities of this ancient and familiar material at all levels of the history of modern sculptor. Modern wood carving counts artists like: Ernst Barlach, Arturo Martini, Costantin Brancusi, Pericle Fazzini ed Etiènne Martini, just to name some among the greatest; since wood has been one of the main -new and cursive- raw materials of modern and historic carving, it is still now opening itself to new possibilities of creative practise. Thorough a series of creative steps, which nowadays appears to be part of a prehistory of his more recent sculpture - even though I personally think that they are not only very significant of his deep and indubitable talent, but they are also creative actions important in themselves, and thus not to be forgotten- the overall sense of Vallazza wood carving appears to be the conscious and self-will effort to raise a material connected with the humble, (though necessary) ordinary crafts to a higher level: that of pure creation, as to say, that of the culture of image.
Thus, even if his painting, of an expressionistic taste straddling the fifties and sixties, and echoing the Cubism by the mid-sixties, has been left aside in favour of sculpture, still it confirms the deepness of the vocation of the image for an artist, who is searching for his own identity, its relation with the others, with Nature, with a social world and with history. Wood means to Vallazza the essential material, in its numerous qualities and origins. In fact, the wood is detected, especially when it comes from a history of use, such as the wood that he recycles from the old and ran down mountain huts. Wood that has been transformed by men, consumed by time. Wood with its own history, beyond the references to the history of rural practices, and to an ecological reality. It is the precious material that Vallazza has used in his most totemic phase -since the beginning of the sixties- with a particular sensitivity, able not to repress or cancel the possibilities of the wood-materials; on the contrary, able to exalt them by taking possession of them and referring them to his own iconic-formal draw. Vallazza uses the grains, the worm-holes, the violent signs of time. Not only, he also uses the variety and the colours. His carving origins from an intense structural counterpoint of diverse elements placed within a wide, complete and essential horizon.
The whole of Vallaza’s Art develops along a twofold and ambivalent path: on one side, there lies the narrative progress sinking its roots into the saga of the Dolomites, on the other side, the steady and untiring experimentation on the matter investigating the chromium-plating and the chromatic fund. Yet, such dichotomy has got blurred contours and it does not stand out within a work that never appears to be completely clear-cut, but would need an eye perceptive of the starts that upset the narration and shake the language. As through zoom-lens, Vallazza Art sinks into the rough skin of an esoteric materiality, or else it opens towards the visionary dreams of a millenary imagination. The same force, which absorbs the gaze on the roughness of the surface, projects the image within an unreal and timeless dimension, where the tale dilutes and muddles with the legend. Under such perspective and with such presuppositions it is not easy to define the references and the cross-references of such an artistic research as Vallazza’s; surely we can’t but find learned references, conferring to this work a further theoretic stand and a stout evocative weave. Thus, the hard-fought wax corrosions of the Medaoro Rosso with their liquefied deformations, may suggest a fascinating parallelism with the drama of the desiccating matter in Vallazza’s sculptures. Thus, the Romanesque essentiality of the first ceramics by Martino Martini as well, may suggest atmospheres similar to those of the cultivated wooden primitivism of the sculptor from the Gardena Valley.
The references become more and more contemporary: the giant joints of the Austrian Fritz Wotruba, the monumental work of Pino Castagna, the energy of Umberto Mastroianni, the sacred naturalism of the igloos by Mario Merz. The thousands oaks planted in Kassel by Josef Buys, side by side with giant monoliths, do not diverge from the idolatry of Nature expressed by Vallazza through his totem. Vallazza’s works are consciously at the centre of their time, stout and strong in their structure, they play a role with the determination of those who know the complexity of their environment and the difficulty of their progress. Ancient witnesses of a visionary and ancestral imagination, the totem, the unrealistic birds, the unlikely thrones of a barbaric stoutness, declare with a clear voice their expressive force and their artistic courage. In the first works from the sixties, the narrative element was prevalent, within the whole carving progress, with elegance and refinement. The linguistic aspect was addressed rather towards the recitative support, than towards the research of its own experimental features. In those works, a gaunt and essential image sustains the whole page set-up: ghostlike figures, existentially made thin, as we can see in the bronzes by Alberto Giacometti, suggest, throughout a constant process of flesh-stripping, an inner investigation of their secret soul. Slender characters suspended between memories of rupestrian graffiti and highly learned philosophical suggestions; works, still expressing a strong descriptive need, but also suggesting outcomes of a extraordinary intensity of expression.
Soon, the linguistic rigour, forced to a persevering matter- simplification, surpasses the tale; the essentiality produces a subtle barocchismo, which shift the analysis’ viewpoint. While the image is dissolving, a whole visionary world disentangles; the matter discovers an expressive virtuosity in its own body, which has only been hinted at by the figure’s static-nature. An evocative aura has gradually developed in Vallazza’ s works, helping to define the abstraction of the matter, which seems to be characteristic of these sculptures. Vallazza’s totems synthesize a long progress, an itinerary, that crosses and metabolizes the most important artistic experiences of the last ten years, and thus delivers us an artist of a great qualitative stature and of a strong expressive personality. His sculptures represent an important page of research in contemporary plastic Art, pointing at that creative spirituality of the alpine regions, able both to preserve its own historical fund, and to progress towards the future at a constant pace. Vallazza’s Art appears learned and refined in the composing action, coarse and violent in the creative action, an Art revealing the complexity in the interlacing of narration and linguistic analysis.
The novelty, unique under certain aspects, of Vallazza’s sculptures had its formal and spiritual turning point in the last twenty years. The revolution, without record in the cultural tradition of the Gardena Valley, has been gradual and firm. It peeped out with the “Don Chisciotte”, that are the fathers of all totem. “I Periodi” (The Periods), the master likes to call them like that, as if he wanted to measure the metric of his artistic journey, follow one after the other with an original and ordinate cadence. From the Period dedicated to the peasant life, to the one focused on the religious iconography Vallazza took part with some significant works to numerous exhibitions on sacred Art) to the expressionistic period -instinctively echoing the great medieval lesson- further up, throughout the universe of the trunks and the robots, towards the perfection- beyond comparison – of the Informal. 1973 and 1975 are the years of compositions and group compositions hinting at human or animal actions: insects, sorrels and animals of prey. Here prevails a geometric conception and an exotic hint to the eagles of the American-Indian totem, the secret owls of the forest or the mountains huts, heralding adversities by their nocturnal hoots, to archaic recollections transfigured by an oneiric drive. A magic world, built over the tales of the wood, the mountains huts, the decorated stubi (traditional china stoves), that have witnessed the erratic generations, the villagers’ tales.
It is the historic wood to have put a spell on the master. The totemic world, made perfect by the fantastical geometry of men and birds is the outcome of this spell. A morning, while he was walking to his studio, he ran into the wood-dumping from the demolition of an ancient barn. He thought with melancholy about those objects, witnesses of many peasants’ generations, that would had soon been slaughtered by the axe and burnt by the stove fire. He stopped to search among the formless accumulation under the village dwellers amazed gaze. Sharp traces of constructive techniques fall in his hands, together with traces of use, ingenuous decorative elements hinting to the changeable condition of the weather, the daily life of ordinary people, working in the fields, in the forest, in the high pastures, taking part to the community life, both secular and religious.
He was struck by the tenacity and the fatigue imprinted it the wood of those centenary plants, made even more visible by the work of men. The grains; the knobs; the rings; the ancient sapwoods corroded by the seasons; and the colour - the colour above all -; the colour shades, natural property of any essence, vivid or watered down by time and by the work of men. A whole, huge wooden incunabulum, a set of systems, sounds orchestrated by life into an harmonic resonance. Until then, wood was for Vallazza the matter-mean to express an idea, a feeling, like clay, wax, or the Plasticine the master used for his iron works or for his statuary models. Since then, he has meditated and created a new form of Art, unknown, linked to a primordial universe, where men would impress Nature with their own personal view of the world around them. Therefore, the Thrones, the Chairs, the Chairs-Thrones, the Totem represent a world conscious and clear about the responsibilities of an artist wiling to enter history as a man-protagonist of the culture of his land.
I believe that the work of Vallazza needs to be interpreted in the light of the tradition to which he belongs, and still this perspective interpretation should not diminish the originality of his own work. Valazza’s imaginary respects and keeps up the quintessence of the values belonging to wood sculpture, still it is deeply rooted in the needs, possibilities, and aesthetic idioms of the late twentieth century.
More than any other contemporary sculptor, he has treasured the richness of ideas, the formal liberty and the insights inherent in our Era. However, it would be useless and sterile to establish a connection between his work and any other major modern lexicons. At a simple regard, we can perceive the contemporary rigour in Vallazza’s art, the existence of some connections with Cubism, and of some tributes to Surrealism and Constructivism, yet these connections are so faint that they can dissolve at a closer analytical approach. The only predecessor springing to our mind, while looking at his sculptures, might be Giulio Gonzales….not because of any similarity, visual, formal or ideological, but because both artists escape any tie, ideology or trend.
Both of them, more than any other of their colleagues, are spontaneously themselves. Both of them, more than any other of their colleagues, were able to submit to the impositions and the inherent values of the material of their choice (iron for Gonzales, wood for Vallazza), and yet were able to break free from them, affirming their freedom and autonomy. The unique originality of Vallazza’s formal lexicon is combined with the inexhaustible variety correlated to a wide range of associations. These associations, in their turn, allow a personal interpretation of the forms. In this way, the spectator is free to follow his own impressions.
Vallazza represents an unique case within the traditional knowledge of a “job”: he is a engraver-creator, gifted with the rare qualities of an interpreter, a master in the difficult art of suggesting new patterns of classical vision. Every image raises to a poetic dimension and an emblematic value, even when some fantastical elements, suggested by the Romanesque bestiary, are displaced and Vallazza gets closer to the Art Brut. Off course, we are talking of very similar choices, which can be explained as a reaction to the conceptual rigours of the concrete Art and the rational constructivism. It is the choice of a man, who believes that the knotty and grained wood, in all its varieties of structure and colours, is the more suitable material to express his own fantastic world. Assembling diverse woods, from old huts and ancient houses in demolition, is a refined Art to Vallazza, since they are corroded and scratched planks or beams, revealing grains and fibres that can be used like an inside-draw, interpreted like a deeply expressive, secret script.
By such variety of wood, Vallazza composes the figures of his nightmares and dreams, the heraldic and monumental figures, following the ancient law of frontality. The simple (not so simple, to be honest) secret of Vallazza lies in the respect for certain traditional rules in linking together, through the use of joints, the movable parts of the sculpture, adapting them with a constructive function, rather than with the playing function characteristic of modern times. Thus, it is possible to analyse the composition in its different plastic elements: rebuilding the archaic solemnity of their monumental structure through the various pieces of wood that have been squared or carved into an informal volume, and sometimes decorated, with engravings or relieves , or slightly coloured or stained in chiaroscuro.
Vallazza can express with new modalities the sentiment for Nature, the peace of mind, the solitary and contemplative detachment, which is not misled by false appearances. His nowadays sculptures are the poetic conclusion of a series of negations that have moved him away from the figurative mannerism of craft origins. Adolf has slowly found himself in the images of a forgotten and lost world, which has secretly survived in his subconscious, waiting to be born again in the most mysterious and fascinating aspects of his sculptures, set free from the incrustations of a timeless moment. His truth is a conquer, due to a spiritual experience, humbly inspired by the love for wood sculpture, and humbly carried out in the solitude of a mountain village, as if nowadays world was just a science-fiction foolish invention.