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Untitled [Maquette for the Janesville Gazette Building, Janesville, WI]

Costantino Nivola

Magazzino Italian Art

Magazzino Italian Art
Cold Spring, United States

The five panels of the seven-paneled work correspond to a large-scale sandcast commissioned by the Janesville Gazette, in Wisconsin in 1968. The design for the building was based on a broadly conceived history of communication, from Stone Age drawing and Arabic lettering through printing, radio, television, to electronic impulses, and to satellites. Whilst many of the elements of the design are abstracted, Nivola’s characteristic tectonic figures are discernible along the bottom row. Some of the identifiable motifs include a satellite, a dove-like bird in outline and the cast of small components including a nail. These figures along the bottom row are separated by a vertical division, containing text and symbols—an eye, lips and an ear.

However, Nivola stressed that the symbols were “suggestive, not finite.” The center panel forms the focal point of the work, a crowd of figures—the recipients of information and the media. In the full-scale version, the central panels are flanked on both sides by “guardians of the media” and separated by what appear to be a newspaper column and perforated tape.

A number of variations are visible between the working model and the final version that are indicative of Nivola’s spontaneous approach: the figures in the central panels hold placards in the full-scale work that evoke contemporary events; the design has been connected to a series of drawings that Nivola made of protests in Chicago in 1968, as well as to the history of the Janesville Gazette whose workers took strike action in this period; other variations include a panel of modern day hieroglyphs or symbols—a peace-sign, a raised hand, and a pointing finger—in the full-scale model.

The vertical divisions in the design correspond to the number of panels for the full-scale work, 39 in total covering an area of 120 square meters. The panels were made at Nivola’s home in Springs before they were packaged and sent by train to Wisconsin. Nivola followed to put the finishing touches to the work before it was unveiled to the public in August 1970.

Details

  • Title: Untitled [Maquette for the Janesville Gazette Building, Janesville, WI]
  • Creator: Costantino Nivola
  • Creator Lifespan: 1911/1988
  • Date Created: c. 1968-1970
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall dimensions: 66 1/4 x 78 3/8 x 2 3/4 in.
  • Rights: Family of Costantino Nivola (top left, center, bottom left and bottom right panels); Collezione Fondazione di Sardegna (top right panel)
  • Medium: Sandcast plaster (positive relief), 7 panels (2 missing)

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