Matter, Power, Form

by Giovanni Bovecchi

In art, the "form" is "content". How many times have we heard this leit-motive, which over time has become almost a slogan? Yet we are unable to explain why. When content becomes form or how much content is such because of its form. And, I think, than never, as in the case of Franco Miozzo, this kind ofvaexataquestio has become pressing, current, consistent, coherent, and even insistent.

Miozzoovercomes the imposed and strict logic of a sculptural and / or pictorial formalism by transcending it in a natural impulse always characterised by abstraction and volumes, which denoteshis preferencefor the ideology of a primordial genesis of the forms or rather an interest in primitive and expressionist art,declining towards solutions seemingly naive but imbued with a force of synthesis. It is as if in Miozzocoexistedtwo aesthetics ideals: the need for sculptural volume, ofthe power of the form, and the search for a formal synthesis that became almost mystery, revelation mediated by an aesthetic code that only purity can discover.

In fact, in Pietrasanta, in the thirties, during the interregnum of peace between the two World Wars, he could not find those stimuli that he sought and forced on him. Those languages would have come in the subsequent period, in the late fifties, with the beginning of informal sculpture by Henry Moore, Isamu Nouguchi, Jean Arp and Jacques Lipchitz and later with Giuliano Vangi. Suffice it to observe Moore’sReclining Figure(1959) and compare it with some of Miozzo’s earlierinformal intuitions / visions to demonstrate more than easily, almost in an elementary way,I would say,ictu oculi, how the power of form crumbled, and pushed from within the figuration of nature, expanding it towards informality and synthesis, which, altogether, have been the growing language of his research, experimentation and, I would say, of his own art, for all his life. In the history of the Twentieth Century of Italian and then international art, Miozzo can be considered theminting precursor of many trends and informal neo-figurative schools that only later would characterize much of the twentieth century.

Miozzo’s intellectual and artistic works are framed in a time window packed with key events for the Italian and international art. The twentieth century can be considered a culturally alive, atypical and, in some ways, contradictory period. The century of experimentation.The century of conceptualism.The century of ideologies.The century of artistic globalization and disenchantment. The century of informal sculpture, of pop painting, and of the break with that "Renaissance" past, which was sometimes felt awkward and inconceivable. And yet, it was the century of progress, of the upward surge of the concept of speed, of serial mechanization, and the century of the man-machine-mastersocial problem; the century in which the theories of Karl Marx were applied to the letter, the century of the discovery of drugsessential for prolonging life; the century of psychoanalysis; the century of the great ideological and cultural conflicts; the century of freedom and women's empowerment; the century of the end of apartheid; the century of the fallof the Berlin wall and the conquest of the Moon. But it was also the century of two World Wars, Vietnam, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the horrible Nazi genocide of the Jews, the murder of Kennedy in Dallas and that of Martin Luther King in Memphis, but also the century of civil rights and peace with Maria Teresa and Gandhi; it was the century of the birth of UNESCO and the discovery of penicillin by Flemming, Nobel Prize in 1945, and Sabin oral vaccine for polio. We can not imagine the glowing wealth that this century funneled in every field of human knowledge. And finally it was the era of communication, Mass Media, and the Internet.

It is in this climate that Franco Miozzo forms his art. Miozzo the sculptor and the painter perceived the essences of this environment and he overcame the local cultural mannerisms, which was so populardue to the historical contexts of religious customers. Ahead of its time, he interpreted the original "forms", as he used to say, even with surprising advances. He was a visionary artist endowed with an extraordinary emotional sensitivity that transcends time. The years of the Balkan-Croatian front: the tragedy that turns into humanity in a figure that is already sculpture, static and dynamic.

Impressive are, in this sense, some studies, which remained unpublished until now, made on paper during the Second World War, when the artist was called to arms on the Balkan–Croatianfront. Studies, sketches, made with poor material, painted with wax shoes, using both the front and back of a cardboard sheet or an old newspaper. Already in these works, you can read the beginning of an existential problem, almost eschatological, that,in fact, will characterize the social neurosis and religiouscrisis of twentieth century. In addition, in his notes,Miozzo described, even crudely, the wounds that war - blind to every horizon of peace –spread on humanity, nature, and the animals that Franco loved so much because he already knew to be part of the whole, that man is not above things but in things and lives in the flowing of time, fast, as the vortex of the storm that swallows everything.

And so we see figures, men, women, soldiers, beggars, dying animals, accordion players without eyes, outlined always with a powerful expressionistic force, but also interpreted sociologically and psychologically, almost as if endowed with a vigorous but static power, as if the force could no longer free itself, as if they were so powerful in form but helpless spectators of the tragedy of the world. In some of these human figures, sometimes developed horizontally, to use a paloscianterminology, sometimes vertically to anticipate the spiritual inspiration of his San Martinos, there is always the struggle between the relative and the absolute, between the earthly man and the divine mystery in such a manner that, at times,Miozzo’s man transforms himself into anevanescent, "vangian"verticalism.

And there are othercurious anticipationsin Miozzo’s art that say much on the great stature of the artist, now adoptive Pietrasantese: two examples, a drawing of a figure of a man no longer stony as his miners painted with oil, whose shirts seem carved in Apuan marble, similar to the bare rock on which the worker sits for a short break, afterthe immense fatigue of work, head down, almost praying with those huge hands that are unlikely to join, swollen for fatigue, andas powerful as the mines that shine in the rock to dig new tunnels of quarries or remove huge blocks of marble, which then roll downstream and fall down with a noise almost primordial, often taking away a life.

Miozzo’s singing to Versilia and in his heart an ecumenical feeling of love for all of creation. The eroticism of mother earth: a social neofigurativism, inspired by the peasantstradition.

The Versilia of the Twenties and Thirties and early Forties, before the outbreak of World War II, was for Franco Miozzo, as aforesaid, a land rich in aesthetic experiences and artistic stimuli: from the ashes of material and spiritual destruction, as a real Phoenix, new and fruitful instances of ethical and aesthetic ideals seemed to reappear. The idea of anApuan Republic, the dream of a geographical heart where, as if in a timeless Arcadia, the most blooming souls, men "seeding" dreams and beauty could meet. "Sowers were called the poets, writers and artists, who worked for theApuania magazine founded in 1926 by the poet GaribaldoAlessandriniand scholarGiulio Paiotti". The seed as a symbol of rebirth: the seed that is sprouting new life in the ground, in the plate. In Franco Miozzo’s "peasant" poetic, which funneled in Versilia his ideal of beauty, the figure of the sower, declined either to male or female, acquires the value of a symbol,and the artist’s interest isfor the most naive and spontaneous form, for the greener landscape,with its mountains and "monolithic" houses,always firmly fixed to the ground as if to protect its people, the legacy of an easy and educated knowledge.

And hencethe landscapes and physiognomics of Sironiana and Funiana fame, where the architectural or figurative elements – both human or natural– are transfigured with experimental expansion of space and enhanced by large levels of light that immediately overturn the formal meaning of the painting. So a large mass of vegetation made of visionaries colors, colors of soul, protects in a giant hug a farm house that appears to be very small, while a yellow sun suddenly lights a part of the day which, in that picture, has no more time nor place.

The painting shown in the picture on the next page can be considered as a liminal work sharing some of the features ofthe figuration, the mystique of a natural landscape (which peremptorily reaffirms its laws against a humanity indifferent to the beauty of the planet world) and a brilliant, chromatic-abstractionist anti-figuration that pushes reality itself towards an original and spontaneousmetaphysics. Exactly as it happens in two other works (p. 22 and p. 118), where the idea of a light that brings out the clarity of the hot sky transparencyon the plans of the Apuanslopes, pays tribute to a land where the beauty of nature is often stained with blood, the blood of war as in the works dedicated to the massacre of Sant'Anna di Stazzema or the blood of work. In Miozzo’ssong to our land, in his painting that becomes prayer as well as listening of creation, we can not avoid pointing out Miozzo’s attention on the man who lives between the tops and the sky, the man who in the morning, when the stars are still in the dark sky, leaves his home on foot to reach the marble quarries; so high, the Apuan Alps, that sometimes the clouds are below him.This is the man to whomMiozzohimself devotes a poignant poem with a highly realistic impact on the emotional level: the quarryman who, sitting on the stone for a short rest, converses with God.

And yet,aren’t those weird sisters with hats like seagull, nuns often guarding the territory, or on horseback, as Christ’s soldiers, the expression ofthe symbolic value of peace? To these paintings full of poignant poetry, the poet Christian Mazzanti dedicates these lines:

Le suore di carità di Franco Miozzo

scontato il cappello gabbiano

al volo permanente fra i flutti

della vita

pregna l’immagini della veste

incinta come damigiana:


infatti la suora

travasa la carità

dal suo interno


per un abbraccio totale

quasi un allattamento apuano delle nuvole

e cerca i fiaschi da riempire

con i riflessi di anima

dagli ospedali di Viani

alle Crocifissioni apuane di Miozzo.

And thenthe mothers, women who arethe land thatgives birth tothe fruit, hard-working, strong, painted withseductive brushstrokesinlargeanatomical shapes, harmonious, where, asusual, theintended andpersistentdisproportion assumesalso in this case, the value of arefined aesthetic and erotic need. These are formsin which the lightflowswith a variety ofcoloursabsolutely perfectand unexpected, indeed perfectjust becausesurprising. And finallyFranco’s horseanddonkeys with their slenderstructure, whileeatingtheirhayina bag.Again, the poet CristianoMazzanti reads:

"Miozzo’s horse is an evangelical horse, of meditation, Franciscan, who responds with its skeletal solemnity to man’s neurotic convulsions; although with two feet, man always runs as a quadruped and never reaches the finish line."