The Italian artist Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) is, without a doubt, the great pioneer of modern sculpture. His achievement has been recognized – in spite of an historiographical blindness that persisted for decades – by the artists of his time and by leading figures in the art of the twentieth century. Degas, Boccioni (who made him a lodestar of Futurist sculpture), Brancusi, Giacometti, Fontana, Anselmo, Thomas Schütte and Juan Muñoz have all acknowledged the lasting significance of his legacy.
By means of an important selection of his sculptures, almost all of his photographs and drawings, his writings and a number of his letters, this complete monograph highlights the complexity of Rosso’s creative process, and especially his exploration of the limits of form and materiality, which resulted in his making different versions of his own works.
Rosso was not a sculptor in the traditional sense. Eschewing wood and stone, he worked with soft materials such as plaster and wax, which lent themselves to the representation of ephemeral effects and subtle forms. He produced multiple versions of his works, continually varying the forms and materials. For Rosso, sculpture and the visualization of sculpture were inextricably linked, and photography, which came to constitute the definitive movement from the point of view of the spectator, enabled him to arrive at his ultimate goal: the attaining of insubstantial form.
As Luciano Fabro observed, in an illuminating interview he gave in April 1996, ‘[till then] sculpture had been about taking away from or adding matter to a nucleus; Rosso goes further by proposing that when the gaze passes over something, remove or add matter, remove and add subject.’