PETER AGOSTINI – ARTIST OF EXQUISITE
By Ellen Gilmer
The June showing of Peter Agostini’s sculpture at the Salander-O’Reilly Gallery on East 79th Street in Manhattan brings a true master’s touch of creative genius to this Spring and Summer’s New York Art Gallery scene. With its vivid, image-provoking
title of “Mid-Life Crisis,” this uniquely characteristic and diverse collection of the artist’s work exhibits
the highest definitive qualities of major schools and styles in the rich, complex history of World Art.
Entering the gallery, the viewer is greeted by the silken surface and steely force of the “Swell,”
made of hydrocal in 1965. One of a series of “Swells,” this amazing
landmark in modern sculptural achievement at once defies and re-defines accepted and proven laws of physics in its seductive
intrigue of tied inner tube forms contained to near bursting, threatening absolute explosive elegance – pure, pristine
dynamite grace. Within this piece, Eastern Asian full-form and fluidity meet
Western power-packed compression, and align.
Nearby, another well-known smaller sculpture entitled “Squeeze” (1964) is a plaster replica of the
artist’s strong, sensitive hands kneading tight-skinned tubular forms into lifelike, billowing, breathing flesh. Its classic Italian form in American Pop Art medium give this piece unbounded limits
as a powerful merging of style, form and period – a sculpture of true significance within the history of international
art. – The artist’s index finger playfully arching above the work-in-process questions any challenge to Peter
Agostini’s valid place as a Founding Father and true genius in the history and development of Modern Art.
Another “Swell” in hydrocal (c. 1965) exudes an uncanny feeling of feather lightness in flight,
its ballooning, bulbous dimensions defying both weight and gravity. Its rope-lined
seams of stretching, barely controlled power with fabric-like pleats beneath the rope-ties lend a sheer suggestion of draping
to this otherwise naked revelation of exaggerated form. The tightly encased volumetric
magnitude is similar to that found in many large, heavy-based and massive Buddha figures of Indian, Ceylonese and Chinese
sculpture from the 5th and 6th Centuries A.D., as well as in stone figures and fragments from the Mayan
ruins of Mexico.
The terra cotta “Untitled Head” (1972), a gentle-featured, expansive, cloud-boulder sits stalwart,
unconcerned of its peculiar duality of full, rounded, yet fractured forms. Its
fragmented skull and nose in no way detract from its large, round baby-doll eyes and full, plush lips. The overall fullness and depth of the features are classical, but the eyes are shallow – almost drawn
– as in Abstract Expressionism. And the endearing vertical line through
the eye is unmistakably theatrical French and Art Nouveau. – Agostini came close to discarding this piece when it broke
and fragmented during its kiln firing, but was persuaded to keep it because of the artistic strength and validity of its altered
Immortalized in bronze, the “Old Apollo” (1976) with its bony, yet muscular torso and sparse, thinning
legs – its powerful, yet gnarly hands and feet – possesses a quiet, knowing countenance of incorrigible patience
and acceptance of longevity. The elderly god stands watchful, fearless in his
linear definition of aging grace. With back of right hand resting easily on right
hip, he exhibits the uncanny relaxed, open-handed, languid strength so beautifully recognized in the male figures of Michelangelo.
“Butterfly” in plaster (1959) has a rare quality of sophisticated buoyancy and weightlessness –
a new-born nymph taking flight, emerging from its satin pillow cocoon in a graceful curving twist of upward spiraling transformation. Within this piece live the exquisite convergence of classic Renaissance form, Rococo
richness of style, and Pop Art conception and material. The artist’s characteristic
signature of “Agostini” nonchalantly carved in subtle, low-relief in large and small capitalized print in the
sculpture’s soft-pillow base emphasize even further this vibrant combination of period and world style.
The amazing sculptural triptych display of bronze horses: “Walking
Horse” (1971), “Galloping Horse” (1969), and “Flying Horse” (1939) all embody a pure, uninhibited
and joyful outrageousness in their yogic postures and near-impossible dance-flight moves.
The subtle nuances of their smooth classical forms combined with their dashing flare and dauntless unfurling of elegance
enable them to soar above any pedestal or reproach.
With each face carefully defined by the free, casual, but exacting touch of the artist, the four plaster “Figure”
sculptures are definitive of feminine beauty and liquidity of form. Their flowing,
graceful lines and rough-surface modeling are proudly indicative examples of the joining together of Renaissance, Impressionism
and Abstract Expressionism.
The exquisite and outstanding exhibition of Agostini’s sculpture at the Salander-O’Reilly Gallery
in Manhattan will run until the end of June, and Peter Agostini’s
brilliant influence and significance in the field of American and World Art will continue throughout the endurance of history.
Correspondent, International Press Association
Copyright - E. Gilmer