Displayed here for first time since 2007, this installation of Untitled (claw) marks the first museum exhibition of Arcangelo Sassolino’s sculpture in North America. Like Camille Utterback, who created the Text Rain video installation, and Ned Kahn who created Untitled (cloud machines) for 21c, this emerging Italian artist started his career in science and technology before making art.
After studying mechanical engineering, Sassolino took on a job in toy design at Nextoy-Asahi (Casio) in New York while attending the School of Visual Art (SVA). These seemingly divergent paths have culminated in an approach to sculpture that takes its cues from the work of the great Minimalist artists such as Richard Serra, Walter de Maria, or Donald Judd, and which draws from his experience in both engineering and design.
Sassolino’s work focuses on industrial processes and materials. His objects and installations explore mechanical behaviors, materials, and the physical properties of force. Each work takes careful planning and research and results in constructions that are stunning both in terms of their sheer physicality (material density, mechanical precision) and the forces (gravity, pressure, friction), which are applied by or to the object.
Sassolino’s objects simultaneously show human, technological accomplishment in all its beauty while simultaneously laying bare its potential for destruction or failure. In Untitled (claw), Sassolino has modified a hydraulically powered construction grapple to move its blades, like a spider’s legs, in a random sequence. The steel blades act as levers which move the claw across the floor, its sharpened tips digging in and leaving long marks in the concrete. Sassolino challenges the conventional parameters of art and public space by introducing elements of danger and unpredictability. Like in many of his imposing installations, this creates a tension between the viewer and the object, as a result of violent interaction of materials and unpredictable destruction of the environment.
Sassolino lives in Vicenza, Italy and has exhibited work at important institutions throughout Europe such as the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Foundazione Palazzo Strozzi, Italy, and the Essl Museum, Vienna. In early 2011, he was included in Under Construction, a group exhibition at the Tinguely Museum, Basel, Switzerland, alongside Jonathan Schipper’s The Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle, which was commissioned for The Garage Bar on East Market St. in Louisville.