Fabio De sanctis - Biography
||Fabio De Sanctis was born
on Rome on 7-2-1931. He studied in Rome. After the war De
Sanctis came into contact with the word of the visual arts,
making friends with various artists who worked in the capital.
At eighteen he enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture in
Rome, and part of his interests were absorbed by the university
and the problems of his chosen discipline. During this period
he executed tempera drawings, a few oils, and some ceramic
He was graduated in 1957 and opened an architectural office,participating
in competitions and designing buildings for private and public
As he followed the execution of his designs, he developed
a knowledge of the materials and techniques involved in the
realization of his ideas.
His relations with artists sometimes led to joint efforts
in the making of buildings and interiors
He felt some reservations, however, in
his contact with the world of architecture in '61-'65: the
critique he developed of «design» and of contemporary
furniture was given concrete expression in a few early creations
in his studio at Saxa Rubra, near Rome.
He invented furniture destined to have a less precarious material
and expressive life and an autonomous individuality.
The conception of these pieces excluded both the possibility
of serial development and the idea of integration in a «style».
This early experience was followed
by the activity of Officina 11, in '63 and '64. Officina 11
was the name given to the activity of two artists, Fabio De
Sanctis and Ugo Sterpini. It did not indicate an industrial
or production-oriented operation. After a period of theoretical
formulation by its two authors, Officina 11 made 27 pieces
of furniture, choosing among numerous proposals, ideas, and
trial pieces that had accumulated in the mean time. The work
of Officina 11 would be shown only in art galleries and museums.The
27 works were illustrated in the «Catalogo '63-'64»,
which contained a declaration by the authors and a critical
text by Enrico Crispolti.
The works of Officina 11 would
be well received by the art world, but less so by architects
and designers. The first exhibition, at Galleria Il Centro
in Naples, was followed in the summer of '64 by an exhibition
at Galleria Alfa in Venice, in concomitance with the '64 Biennale.
The exhibition led to many new contacts; the Italian and foreign
press, both specialized and generic, showed considerable interest
in the works of Officina 11.
In October of that year Sterpini
travelled to Paris and showed the Officina 11 catalogue to
the poet and critic Jose Pierre, who presented it the same
day to Andre Breton and the Surrealist group. Breton proposed
that the Surrealists send a message to the two artists:
"La poésie dans ses meubles", dated 3 December
1964, with texts by Andre Breton, Philippe Audoin, Robert
Benayoun, José Pierre, Radovan Ivsic, Joyce Mansour,
Alain Joubert, Jean-Claude Silbermann - on the occasion of
their next exhibition, which was held in Rome at Galleria
In May '65 Andre Breton invited Officina 11 to the
International Surrealist Exhibition, «L'Ecart absolu»,
at Galerie L'Oeil in Paris.
De Sanctis was present at some of the preparatory meetings
for «L'Ecart absolu»: at the home of Radovan Ivsic,
in rue Galande, he participated in the encounters at which
the joint works that would be presented in the exhibition
were defined. De Sanctis has frequented the group ever since.
«L'Ecart absolu» was the last official exhibition
of the Surrealist Movement and the last conceived by André
At the time the group met daily in a cafe
in the Halles quarter called,
"La promenade de Vènus".
André Breton had chosen it, perhaps because
of its name, or because of its location near a large market
center which brought it a clientele of laborers and shopkeepers.
De Sanctis found a group that was homogeneous and still compactly
gathered around a few major figures. Among the desultury members
of the group he recalls Man Ray, Matta, Eduard Mesens, Meret
Oppenheim, Wifredo Lam, Robert Lebel, J.F. Revel, and the
Italians Enrico Baj and Giordano Falzoni.
José Pierre, Jean Schuster, Gérard Legrand,
Joyce Mansour, Philippe Audoin, Alain Joubert, Annie Le Brun,
Radovan lvsic, Robert Benayoun, Vincent Bounoure, J. Michel
Goutier and the painters J. Claude Silbermann, Adrien Dax,
Jean Benoit, Mimi Parent, Nicole, Giovanna, and many others
regularly attended the meetings.
These took place around a large table. Near Breton sat Toyen
considered by many the most important woman painter of this
During these years the group published «La Brèche»,
under the direction of André Breton.
In addition to José Pierre, De Sanctis frequented Radovan
Ivsic and Annie Le Brun when in Paris. In their home he met
Toyen, Konrad Klapheck, Gérard Legrand, George Goldfayn,
and several young poets.
At the beginning of '66, De Sanctis was invited by the Museum
of Contemporary Crafts in New York to participate in the Exhibition,
«Fantasy Furniture». The exhibition was centered
on the furniture of Officina 11 and took place during January,
February, and March. De Sanctis stayed in New York for about
In June, July, and August of the same year the Museum Of Modern
Art in New York hosted the exhibition,
"The Object Transformed", organized
by Mildred Constantine and Arthur Drexler. The exhibition
included «The Designer's Rest», which De Sanctis
dedicated to the then little-known Ornette Coleman, as well
as works by Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Meret
Oppenheim, and Wolfgang Paalen, whose «Nuage articule»
had been pointed out to the organizers by De Sanctis.
From 1966 to the early Seventies De Sanctis, though
he continued his architectural practise, devoted his energies
primarily to Officina 11, in which he had remained alone.
He developed its lines and executed ten works, taking account
of his recent experiences and modifying his means of expression.
He replaced some figurative elements and developed techniques
of greater direct manual intervention.
The "Divano in olivo", the «Tavoli
a funzione disturbata», the «Porta a funzionamento
edipico», and particularly the «Grande Scrivania
Direzionale», date from this time.
De Sanctis showed at Galleria Carbonesi in Bologna,
at Vinciana in Milan, and at Galerie Baukunst in Cologne,
in «Der Gheist des Surrealismus», organzed by
José Pierre. In Rome, at the opening of the exhibition
at Galleria Bruno Piattelli, italian actors connected with
Living Theatre and Free Jazz musicians gave a performance.
In '68 the Surrealist group organized an exhibition in Brno,
Prague, and Bratislava - «Le Principe du Plaisir»
- in which De Sanctis also took part.
On 23 March '69, with the declaration, «S.A.S.»,
the members of the group decided to suspend all form of joint
activity under the banner of Surrealism; they would continue
to see each other privately.
From. '70 to '72 De Sanctis took interest in certain Situationist
experiences, particularly Urban Drift. At the beginning of
this period he terminated his activity as an architect. He
motivated this decision in a text published in Paris by Editions
Maintenant in 1974, «Déménagement».
The second edition, «Trasloco», printed in Rome
in silkscreen, dates from 1980.
Since '70 sculpture has been his primary activity. He had
explored its techniques previously, in a series of increasingly
complex practical experiences.Occasionally he would turn his
attention to crafting furniture.
The works of this period are grouped together under the title,
«Traversata delle Alpi», which takes its cue from
a trip made together with Letizia, Annie Le Brun, and Radovan
Ivsic, from Paris to Rome.
The dominant image of this body of work is the suitcase and
its parts; but deformed faucets, pipes, and other residues
of the profession of architect also figure.
In September '72, at the Museo del Palazzo dei Diamanti in
Ferrara, he presented the image of a metaphysical journey,
using such materials as recorded audio tapes, slide projections,
and lights that illuminated not individual pieces, but a pile
of baggage. The overall impression was that of a poetic movement
toward a mythic place of departure or arrival.
The subsequent exhibitions in Italia and abroad represented
the continuation and development of the themes of the «La
Traversata delle Alpi».
In 1973 Enrico Crispolti and Mino Trafeli
organized "Volterra 73", an exhibition which brought
sculpture to exterior interior, and working spaces throughout
De Sanctis made several on-site inspections to place the works
he would contribute.He visited the workshops in which Volterra's
signature material, alabaster, was processed, and he decided
to use it. For the first time as a sculptor he came to grips
with urban scale in an explicit manner. In agreement with
what was done by other participating artists, he conceived
his works for the specific situations in which they would
De Sanctis became fond of the workmanship of the alabaster
masters; on his return from Volterra he brought a truckload
of alabaster to Rome. In his Tiburtina studio he made a series
of sculptures with this material, which would thenceforth
be permanently included in his repertory.
These were the years during which the artist's relationship
with his social environment was dealt with in various ways
and via various approaches. De Sanctis experienced this moment
passionately and felt that his works had sufficient symbolic
content to be presented both in so-called «high culture»
places and in «unprepared» places.
He moved away from works made for specific sites and showed
in the streets the same works he presented in art galleries
In addition to Volterra, these experiments took place at Penne,
Gubbio, Florence, Rome, Capannoli, Montagnana and, on two
different occasions, Geneva.
Meanwhile De Sanctis resumed his filmmaking activity, which
centered on the same symbols and themes as his sculpture.
De Sanctis continued to work on the themes of poetic emigration
expressed in «La Traversata delle Alpi», with
different materials and surfaces. The suitcase was always
present, often deformed or reduced to details alone as in
the «mineral baggage».
From Mercedes cars De Sanctis took the
star, which became an autonomous character and a symbol. He
saw the occult ties between the city, automobiles, the home
and the conveyed in the «Tuberie» that he made
of plastic and metal, forming environments - as in Milan,
in the room of the '74 Biennale at the Palazzo della Permanente,
«Constatazioni all 'interno della casa».
That same year he met Simone and Edouard Jaguer, founders
of the «Mouvement Phases», with whom he would
remain in contact. De Sanctis since that time has been invited
to participate in exhibitions organized by Jaguer in France
In '74 in Bruxelles he took part in the
«Exposition Phases», at the Musée d'Ixelles.
In '76 he was invited to the XXXVIII Biennale d 'Arte
in Venice, Italian Pavilion.
He showed in «Surrealism Unlimited 1968-78», at
the Camden Arts Center in London, and in the same year in
«Imagination» at Museum Bochum.
His first solo exhibition in Paris took place in 1979 at Galerie
Le Triskele. The owner Sophie Babet, had had L'Etoile Scellee
a gallery frequented by Breton and the Surrealists, during
During the same year he met the poet and art dealer Max Clarac
Serou, founder of the Galerie du Dragon, another Surrealist
De Sanctis's first show at Gallerie du Dragon in Paris
was held in May '82 and followed the exhibitions at the
Mexico City Museum at Château de La Napoule in Cannes
at Palazzo Minnucci in Volterra, and at the Galleria d'Arte
Moderna Ca' Pesaro, in Venice.
For the first time in the '82 exhibition
De Sanctis presented small symbolic landscapes animated
by out-of-proportion and deformed elements and familiar
objects placed in allusive situations open to multiple associations.
Zeiss visita Volterra, prosegue verso il mare, conosce ed
ammira Monsieur-de-Larderel" is a common, everyday
object modified with the intention of demonstrating an «other»
The elements used throughout this body of work are
figurative, often taken from the stylistic heritage of the
past or from the common ordinary imagination.
He was invited to the E.L.A.C. in Lyon, in the exhibition,
«Permanence du Regard Surrealiste», organized
by Edouard Jaguer.
In March '83, in Bari, he took part in the exhibition organized
by José Pierre in the Pinacoteca, «Dans la
lumière du Surréalisme».
The sculptures of this period are
characterized not only by forms that find reference in Etruscan
scultpure, which awakened a renewed interest in De Sanctis,
but also by a green patina that recalls, on one hand, the
oxidation of the bronze of archaeological finds, and on
the other the taste of certain finishings used in the '20s.
Furthermore, he chose not only to paraphrase archaic forms,
but also to present forms drawn from mechanical objects
- contemporary archetypes such as automobiles, cameras and
optical devices - together with mushrooms and small suitcases.
He attempted to show the coexistence of these diverse visual
and symbolic experiences in the mind of contemporary man.In
the summer of 85 he was invited to the 18th Sculpture
Biennial - «Automobiennale» at the Middelheim
Museum in Antwerp.
In the summer of '86, twenty years after Breton's death,
Cahors hosted the exhibition «Changer la vue - André
Breton et la Revolution Surréaliste du regard»,
in which De Sanctis participated with the sculpture, «The
Language of Love».
In '87 he had a one-person show at Galerie de l'Hôtel
de Ville, in Geneva.
In '87 De Sanctis was invited to show at the Valentino in
Turin, in an exhibitiion dedicated to speed; his works were
shown together with works by the Futurists, antique cars,
and historic airplanes.
He took part in '88 at the Musée des Beaux Arts of
Le Havre in the exhibition, «L'experience continue,
1952/1988 - Phases»
«La Condizione di Natura», dating from '88, marks
the passage to further metamorphoses and fusions between the
automobile and the landscape, trasforming the former into
an open field of imagination in which plant, marine, and floral
materials are present, and in which the human figure also
represents a possible role of passage.
In « La Condizione di Natura 2 », the classical
iconography of rape is taken on in a zoomorphic automobile
in which the figure of the woman is partially absorbed, as
though to indicate a possible unification of all the heterogeneus
element described in a single work.
Certain sculpture of this period are ships,
large vessels with archetypal hull lines but devoid of means
which transport palms, landscape elements, instruments of
optical reconnaissance, and zoomorphic and plants elements
- all the bagage, that is, that
the traveller thinks he must use and admire on a possible
of these ships were shown in the underground passage of the
old Roman road at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Verona, Palazzo
Forti, as part of the exibition dedicated to Magritte.
At Asnières, Paris, the exhibition «Les Chemins
du Fantastique » hosted the ships in the room dedicated
to Hieronymus Bosch.
De Sanctis showed in Milan in '89 at Palazzo Reale
e Arengario in «I Surrealisti
», an exhibition conceived by Arturo Schwarz, and in
Frankfurt at the Schirn Kunsthalle in «Die
In '91 at the Centre Georges Pompidou he participated in the
exhibition, «André Breton, la Beauté convulsive».
In Madrid, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia,
he took part in the exhibition «André Breton».
In '93, reflecting on an exhibition of
his furniture at Galerie J.C. Riedel in Paris, he felt the
need to find an updated way of crafting furniture that would
release him from and allow him to go beyond his earlier experiences.
After a period of research the realizaton of the «Barocco
In sculpture, the theme of metamorphoses
took on a more precise connotation in several works that show
a mutation under way between plant elements and mechanical
components (largely drawn from the mechanics of the automobile)
- for instance, in "Nadie vera el rostro del Rallie que
pasa en el bosque", of '92, winner of the
First Prise in Sculpture at the Tenth International Biennial
He resumed and developed a series of sculptures in
which, through the possiblity given to the observer of multiple
points of view in some cases even with an interchange of roles
- sequential and different interpretations can be generated,
as in «La Condizione di Natura 3», «Officina
delle Figure», «Sequenza urbana», «SORELLEDELLEROS»
and «L'lsola delle Figure».
Fabio De Sanctis lives and works in Rome.