A sculptural style ab antiquo leaning towards the contemporary
Although Leonardo Lustig’s sculptural work is somehow a sort of personal and sensory exploration of the ideas of form – influenced by Michelangelo’s technique of taking away – it is also possible to perceive in it the inevitable changes brought about by the historical becoming of plastic expressiveness.
Nevertheless – and probably in order to better understand and reflect upon the complexity of the propositions embracing ancient, modern and contemporary art – he has followed, with resolute consistency and formal rigour, the different and consolidated working systems of the artists who came before him.
As a matter of fact, Lustig has adopted the different construction paths of the plastic image and the resulting mingling of semiotic languages in a comprehensive rather than a progressive way, thus meeting his need to give shape to the expressive tension of a type of art which entrusts the figure with the places and the loftiness of the spirit. Therefore, in order to approach and explain his way of thinking and of carrying out his sculptural work, I think it is appropriate to pinpoint the intellectual and formal processes that, over time, have characterised his personal way of achieving classical results within his plastic experience in general.
This should be accompanied by the awareness that, although the historical meaning of the term classical is related to – according to an ancient definition – “standards, rules and principles of real beauty corresponding with the model or code of art concerning the classical period of Greek and Roman art”, it is also connected with the subsequent outcomes of the expressive practice up to the canons of that type of Romanticism this is considered, instead, and by the majority of people, as being in opposition to the values consolidated by ancient style.
With reference to such canons, it was Lustig himself who, almost from the beginning and after having understood their reasons, perceived their specific elements and the various alternatives which – already in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, and through the different materials selected – resulted in the full-relief forms or figures that were to be placed in space. This was done in order to enhance the meaning of space itself – intended as a gap, rhythm, proportion, symmetry, structural composition – in terms of symbolic sentiment or, as Theodor Lipps theorised in 1897, in terms of accomplishment of a qualifying aesthetics.
As a consequence, today’s sculptor, who is willing to comprehend reality in order to depict its meanings in his/her work, should perform such work in an eloquent and persuasive manner, that is to say by adding something new to what is already known, without relinquishing the direct contribution coming from visible reality and the changes of the artistic language which translates it from idea into form.
In Lustig’s work, indeed, the objective original identity of the sculptural work is evident. The artist has mainly chosen a figurative style leaning towards that type of realism, and that type of archaising and evocative expressionism which could be explained through the actual coherent relationship with the selected materials (from plaster to cement, from clay to stone and marble), the modulation of the forms in space and the symbolic meaning of the idea that they express.
After the most prominent Renaissance and Mannerist artists (from Donatello and Michelangelo to Ammannati and Giambologna), he does know, even without feeling it in every fibre of his being, the “nostalgia and despair”, the climax, typical of Bernini as Flavio Caroli wrote. He immediately goes on and beyond, with an acute insight. He aims at the Ideal of grace and beauty theorised by Winckelmann, thus reaching Canova’s “abstract”. From this he takes, by means of the refinement optical data and in search for the truth, the abolition of contours and the fading of light, more imagined than expressed, up to the emotional and sensory rarefaction which would later characterise Medardo Rosso.
Bourdelle and Maillol had already seduced him, and the same did the twentieth- century style of Messina’s last period (even more than Martini), or the Libero Andreotti’s plastic synthesis influenced by the recovery of the fifteenth-century Tuscan tradition, as part of the return to the order.
Therefore, Lustig is the sculptor of a cross-section of many different styles. His works Il lavoro degli antichi (The Labour of the Ancients), La corritrice (The Female Runner), and Fanciulla (Young Girl) are even reminiscent of Galletti’s modern style of “L’albero Secco” (The Dry Tree) and “La fuga nel vento” (Fleeing in the Wind).
In his work, are many other excellent elements to draw inspiration from, which allow him to match his high manual craftsmanship together with a very personal aesthetic creativity.
The metaphysical suspended expression of the work entitled Volto (Face), sculpted in the Carrara marble, or of the work Autoritratto (Self-portrait), moulded in clay, are certainly no coincidence. And the same goes for Il giocatore (The Player) reminiscent of Martini, but also of the most contemporary of all figurative sculptors, George Segal, the pop artist of daily and banal actions.
In its flowing smoothly between classical and contemporary art – something which Lustig regards as natural – his sculptural work takes up its own narration again, without any difference in terms of epoch or style.
And within the contemporary restlessness – which is characterised, as far as plastic expressiveness is concerned, by the heterogeneous organic/biomorphic overcoming nature – it brings back to life, with the freedom to use the most appropriate language, a great variety of figures.
Therefore – by following his own instinct characterised by the ability to shape the most varied materials confidently, and by sublimating his technical skills using an expressive and poetic imagination – Lustig conveys, indeed, for each one of such figures: from the “portraits” to the metaphorical “attitudes”, the presence, the search for the truth of the being.
Genoa, December 2005.