GABRIELS + components

The components of Paolo Gabrielli's Piccola necrofilaia

WARNING: This article ends where you want it to.

It does not include a timeline of significant events.  It is not meant to be an objective account.  It is not developed following the artist’s CV.  It will not be mistaken for an artist’s statement.

I will tell you it is an interview with an Italian sculptor who works in bronze, but also in irony.

I will tell you that it starts in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the Italian artist Paolo Gabrielli (aka GABRIELS) had his first solo exhibit.  “Obviously I didn’t know Tulsa at all.  Or rather, I knew about it through a few films, (Tulsa by Heisler, with Robert Preston, and Rumble Fish, by Coppola with Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke), through Larry Clark, and through Kafka (the legendary Oklahoma Theatre of America).”

By my final and favorite question to Paolo you will realize that it is up to you to assemble the questions and answers into some kind of portrait, just as Paolo combines multiple puzzle-like pieces of bronze to create toys for melancholics.


Gabriels + toys


What, if any, opinion do you have on the label “Pop Surrealism” that has been applied to your work?

Without a doubt “Pop Surrealism” is better than “Peep Surrealism” and “Pup Surrealism,”  and absolutely better than “Pimp Surrealism.”  But less prestigious than “Pope Surrealism”.

Cronenberg, Giger, De Chirico, Susini, Berrocal and Brancusi.   What is it about their work that captures your interest?


In art and in life in general, I am attracted by:

  1. considering the extreme, the bizarre, the marginal, the abnormal, the most extreme case and the pathological as exemplary occasions through which  we can explore what it means for something to be “normal,” everyday, obvious;
  2. investigating beneath the skin of things, or in other words, attempting to see the obvious in a new way.
  3. the aesthetics of ugliness: understanding how and why it is possible to make the horrible, the ugly and the disgusting into the beautiful.
  4. using irony to seek what is essential, or in other words, seeking the essential while being aware that the essential does not exist: no one will change my opinion that Brancusi’s Leda is a portable male urinal (the kind that in Italian it is called “pappagallo” which also means parrot), a sort of mythological-ironic pendant of Duchamp’s Fountain.
  5. In the end I would say that these statements are four different ways of saying the same thing.
GABRIELS + pornostar

Pornostar secondo Brancusi (prototipo di radiatore femmina) by GABRIELS

What is your most recurring / most horrific / most Freudian dream?

My high school certificate exam, la maturita’.  In my dream I have never read la Divina Commedia by Dante, but I have to write about the inextricable structure of Paradiso. In Italy we read the Divine Comedy in the last three years of our so-called classical high school.  Naturally, we all know how perverse it is to spend three years studying the allegorical visions of a medieval poet, while in Los Angeles tanned high school students invent new microchips, develop as yet undiscovered abdominal muscles and go surfing with sweet beautiful girls like Kirsten Dunst […] In my interpretation, this dream means that I know that I’m not mature enough for paradise. Or maybe I’m not mature enough to be a surfer in California with sweet beautiful girls like Kirsten Dunst.  Or maybe it is the same thing.
P.S.  Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: today I consider Dante to be the greatest Italian poet of all time. Really!  But at 17, I would have been ready to write a treatise demonstrating the aesthetic inferiority of the Divine Comedy as compared to Spider-Man if it meant a kiss from Kirsten.

Gabriels + piccola necrofilaia

Piccola necrofilaia by GABRIELS

You work with two Italian foundries that have produced pieces for, among others, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalì.  What has been the most interesting part of this collaboration?

For me, the foundry is essential; it is to me as a camera is to a photographer, a car is to a driver, or a piano is to a pianist.  That’s why I always mention the foundry when I list the technical aspects of a work.  Given that it is a collaborative work, it seems absolutely absurd to me that sculptors tend to leave this detail out. The idea behind the work is important, but its execution is decisive.

GABRIELS + Piccola necrofilaia (back view)

Piccola necrofilaia by GABRIELS back view

I have a strong relationship with the Bonvicini foundry in Verona. I would even say a friendship.  It is not only an extraordinary forge where you can watch the birth of works by some of the greatest sculptors in the world (Botero, Arman, Matta, etc…), but it is also the only one in Italy, and maybe in the world, capable of  creating such complex disassemblable sculptures.

Before arriving in Verona I had contacted many great artisans who turned down my request. I discovered Bonvicini by following the lead of Berrocal, who also made sculptures with them.  At the foundry I met Giovanna, a person of rare taste and appeal, and Renzo Valbusa, to whom I owe the completion of my pieces.  Renzo worked with Berrocal for years and he is a true virtuoso at crafting bronze.  Above all, he has an innate sense of surreal anatomy and I like to think that he enjoys making my little creatures.

Gabriels + piccola necrofilaia (draw)

Drawing of Piccola necrofilaia by GABRIELS

You are a self-declared liar.  Please make 2 statements on your work, 1 of which is a lie and 1 of which is a truth so that our readers may have the pleasure of puzzling over the difference.

When I say I am a liar I am obviously lying.

In the sense that I’m being serious. The only possibility is to be serious.

The fact is…

  1. we never say anything, but everything is said about us (at least is seems that way to me…)
  2. literature is above all a series of lies from which one can never emerge; it is serious because it is the perfect example of lying.

So, I will give you two statements, both false, and which develop from the main question, which is equally false, “Why do you make toys for melancholics?  Each of the two statements is made from 25 disassemblable personalities [edited down to 13] which can be rebuilt in a single, grand statement – This final statement is true because it is invented by the reader.

«Why do you make toys for melancholics?»

STATEMENT A1) Vile:so that I don’t have to think about the real world, which terrorizes me.2) Frivolous: so that I don’t lose contact with un-reality.3) Alchemical: by combining the pieces according to secret instructions provided by rare medieval codices one can bring to life tiny men who can grant all wishes, even those that are the most absurd and perverse (for example: discussing Hegel with Donatella Versace)

4) Very tenderhearted: I promised my elementary school teacher that I would do it.

5) Lacanian: it is not I who makes them.  They
make and un-make themselves through me, which signifies a “lack” when I am present – which is
therefore above all a circumscribed absense.
Maybe they are “objets petit (a)!”

6) Fantastic: they were given to me by a fairy whose   life I saved on a starry winter night.

7) Adventurous: I found them in a safe at the
bottom of the Indian Ocean.

8) Provident: that way I already know what I’ll give
as a gift at Christmas.

9) Zen: so that in this world I’m not too much
of a bother.

10) Wise: because that way I don’t need to take myself too seriously.

11) Specious: why not?

12) Adolescent: in the end I’ve come to understand
that my hands are useful for things other than masturbation.

13) Telephone existentialist: to leave a
message before the final beep.

14) Ecological: because pollution in the atmosphere makes me see strange things.

STATEMENT B1) Cynical: to pick up girls. She’ll think: “if this guy puts that much energy into his toys, think of what he must be able to do in bed!”2) Condominium Conformist (with a corollary): because it’s less embarassing than writing poetry.  When I write poetry my neighbors end up thinking I’m gay. Corollary for sensitive souls: making a lot of noise and dust is masculine; writing poetry with a sky-blue fountain pen is feminine.3) Impatient: oof! You wouldn’t understand…even if  I were to explain  it to you a thousand times.

4) Suspicious: “which toys?  Who told you?”

5) Russian formalist: because I don’t believe that art is “truth setting itself to work”» (Heidegger) or the “enrichment of being” (Gadamer). It’s all late-romantic bullshit from German residual war-time material! A work of art is always a toy, a refined orchestration of processes, of devices, of ambiguity-producing mechanisms.  Nothing more.  A toy fed by ambiguity.

6) Absent: I’m not at home right now.  Leave a message after the beep.

7) Anti-Darwinian: because my father was a great sculptor.  But his parents made him study the natural sciences, thereby scientifically violating his nature. I am the extreme form of his unnatural involution.

8) Laconic: that’s how it is, end of discussion!

9) Sporty: I wanted to see if I could do it.

10) Solipistic: only for me.  And anyways who else could it be for if not me?

11) Circular: if I knew why I made them I wouldn’t need to make them.

12) Proud protester: because they serve no purpose. I don’t offer services. People who offer services – even the best of them – continue to be servants.  In our society of services and servants I don’t serve anyone and I’m not of service to anyone.  It is better to die than to serve.  Fuck you.

12) Selfish: to avoid any kind of socially useful work.

13) Pornostar: because vibrators are the best!

Gabriels pic

Paolo Gabrielli aka GABRIELS