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Today art has to search within natural science – Giò Pomodoro’s references to astrology

In his sculpture at Taino Park, Giò Pomodoro testifies the intimacy between the contemporary and sculptures, the communities and green spaces, the solstices and sun

Giorgio pomodoro’s sculptures

Sunlight increases the release of the brain’s serotonin, the hormone associated in boosting one’s mood and relaxing one’s nerves. The absence of sun exposure expects a drop in serotonin, which may lead to major depression with seasonal patterns. If enjoyed in moderation, its ultraviolet-B radiation allows the skin to produce vitamin D, an ingredient to building strong bones, and the exposure to sunlight may heal psoriasis, eczema, and acne. While science establishes the sun facts through data and research, its metaphysical definition interweaves. The sun helms the universe as the supreme power, the symbol of one’s higher self, and the source of light and life in one’s soul. In Dante Alighieri’s The Banquet: «There is no visible thing in all the world worthier to serve as a type of God than the Sun, which illuminates with visible light itself first, and then all the celestial and elemental bodies». Whether it is by science or by wisdom, Giò Pomodoro mirrored the symbolisms of the sun. The Italian sculptor emulated his thesis when he authored Il luogo dei quattro punti cardinali, his design brainchild in the province of Varese. He attuned to the passage of sunlight into the empty spaces of his art, a sociological value he conveyed through this abstract sculpture. 

Giorgio Pomodoro’s work

The work celebrates the summer solstice, the entrance of the sun and heat. It stems from the Earth’s axis rotation that tilts 23.4 degrees, and the movement tips the planet’s seasons as the Northern and Southern Hemispheres receive unequal amounts of sunlight throughout the year in their territories. From March to September, the Northern Hemisphere faces the sun, the signal of summer and spring, while from September to March, it inclines away from the sun, the entry of autumn and winter. When the Northern Hemisphere becomes exposed to the sun, the longer days ensue, paving a way for architectures and sculptures across the globe to celebrate the summer solstice. In England, the rising sun lines up with the Heel Stone, the complex that stands outside the Stonehenge’s circle. In Egypt, the Great Pyramids of Giza foresees the alignment of the sun too. In Italy, Il luogo dei quattro punti cardinali absorbs the sun and projects its rays. In the center of the sculpture, an 8.64-meter pillar captures the sun rays on June 21st through a black-marble notch on its surface and projects them onto the pillar resting on the floor, at the point where the notch indicates. Behind the pillar, a pyramid monolith rests. On this day, the sun positions in the North-South alignment, clothing the pyramid monolith with its rays and forming shadows, and illuminating the notch for a short time to signal the summer solstice. The central pillar, a metaphor for the sun and the flow of time, dedicates itself to the Greek God of Sun Apollo, famed for his history that rays of sunlight radiate from his head. The shadows behind the pillar refers to astrology, the winter solstice, the equinoxes, and the dates where Deneb, the first magnitude and one of the most distant stars in the constellation, and Capella, the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga, shone at midnight in the monument’s location, as calculated by the astronomer Corrado Lamberti.

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Il Luogo dei quattro punti cardinali, Giò Pomodoro, Taino, Courtesy of Fondazione Giò Pomodoro

Giorgio Pomodoro – four cardinal points

Pomodoro’s 1991 invention and design references time, mathematics, the culture of Greeks, and the four cardinal points. At the East, a door nestles between a beam and stone blocks, a representation of Chronos, the personification of time that passes. Beside the door, Pomodoro inscribed the word OPUS on the cement wall, a definition of any work of art. Adjacent, the West bears the symbol of Tau, the nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet and star in the constellation, a depiction of the human torso and the fatigue of man, a sign of life and resurrection, the dignity of the God’s children. At the South, the cube sphere reflects the image of the sun and shows the words ad sidera, the Latin for to the stars, an invitation to turn one’s gaze to the sky, the metaphor of one’s search for knowledge. Numbers, calculations, and equations founded the design through the formula (-1 + √5) / 2 and the numerical ratio 1 × 1.618 that support the 5.2 square meters’ base module of the location. The monument adopts tropes, geometry and history, the opposition of light and shadow and of fire and water, the masculinity of the sun drawn from the gnomon, the femininity of the moon sourced from the crescent-shaped pool, and the moon as a woman. Its materials come from the valleys of the lakes that surround it: white, gray, pink and green granite of Montorfano, Baveno and Mergozzo, gray beole of Val d’Ossola, which are slabs of cutting stones, black serizzo of Val Vigezzo, the lithotypes of gneissic composition found in the Southern Alps, and yellow sandstone of Angera.

Taino Park

Il luogo dei quattro punti cardinali positions at Taino Park in the province of Varese. Snugged between Sesto Calende and Angera, the town of Taino is home to over 3,700 residents. The monument sits on a hill across the landscape of the Southern Lake Maggiore and the Monte Rosa. Behind it, the trees enclave the monument, their green space serving as a testament to the protection granted to the parks and recreation in Italy and the pursuit of growing with nature. According to the Official Registry of the Ministry of Environment in Italy, there are over one thousand protected green areas across the country as they cover more than eleven percent of the country’s surface. The framework law number 394, dated 6th of December 1991, underscores the principles for the institutions to follow and their management of the protected areas in line to their mission, classification and governance, along with the legislation for the national and regional protected natural areas. When Pomodoro was commissioned for the sculpture, he envisioned transforming it as a meeting place in the woods. He considered public parks as areas of compensation, reflection, rest, and contemplation. 

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Sole 2, Yorkshire, Giò Pomodoro, Ph Berengo, Courtesy of Archivio Berengo

Correlation between greenery and mental health

Parks establish and sustain a community’s quality of life. These green spaces encourage physical activity which fosters wellbeing and saves $1,500 healthcare cost per year as they create 25.6 percent increase in one’s active physical lifestyle of at least three times a week, filter almost 80 pounds of pollution in the air, increase the property value of the establishments and houses that surround them, conserve the flora and fauna ecosystem in the region, and strengthen the community’s affiliation with nature and safety in the neighborhood. The park trees remove over 7,000,000 tons of toxins from the air which values at $3.8 billion, use carbon dioxide to provide food, and cool the cities as they reduce the heat-island effect. The proximity of a private property may experience an increase in value between eight percent to twenty percent compared to houses that are out of a park’s vicinity. One study associates the low levels of crime and vandalism in a community where parks are present in their neighborhood, while the demand for green spaces in one’s community exceeds seventy-five percent, an indication that the public views parks as essential priorities of the government. The reduction of stress and blood pressure, and boost of physical health correlates to one’s length of stay in the parks, and having a green space nearby decreases the health complaints of the residents by ten percent.

Giò Pomodoro’s solo exhibitions

Pomodoro defined the sun as an ownerless factory that allows life on our planet as well as to those connected to the air, water, earth, and fire, experimented on the forms of materials as he twisted iron, tin, cement, lead, silver, bronze, and gold in his sculptures, and harbored on geometry with tension on surfaces before transforming them into suns, arcs, and spirals. After his father’s death, he moved to Milan from Orciano di Pesaro in 1954. He studied architecture, science, and poetry, and dabbled in jewelry, medals, ceramics, and furniture as a sculptor before transitioning into iron, stones, and marbles. He transported his solo exhibitions in the Guggenheim in New York in 1994, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1995, and the International Biennial of Cairo in 1998, among the others. Human-scale sculptures portrayed his signature such as the Grande Folla in Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna di Roma, a bronze hammered sheet, il Sole per Galileo Galilei in Florence, his ode to the Pisan scientist, il Piano d’uso collettivo in Sardinia, an amalgamation of stone blocks shaped in triangle and square to depict the society’s life, and the Grande Ghibellina of the Nelson Rockefeller Collection, a distorted and sculpted white marble. Pomodoro incorporated the negative space, «the obsession of every true sculptor is the void, the attempt to express, capture, or define it».  Before he passed away, he had received the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award by the International Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C. in 2002. With Il luogo dei quattro punti cardinali, Giò Pomodoro testifies the intimacy between the contemporary and sculptures, the communities and green spaces, and the solstices and sun.

IMAGE GALLERY

Giò Pomodoro (1930-2002) was an Italian sculptor, printmaker, and stage designer. In 1954 he moved to Milan, where he associated with leading avant-garde artists and started making jewelry. He then began to produce reverse reliefs in clay and also formed assemblages of various materials, including wood, textiles, and plaster subsequently cast in metal. During the 1960s, he developed several series of sculptures, which explored a range of abstract shapes, usually with smooth undulating surfaces. In his later career, Pomodoro regularly received public commissions and produced a number of large outdoor structures.

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