Lorenzo Marini has been fascinated with letter forms and graphic symbols for most of his professional career. His keen eye for appealing and unusual graphic elements has evolved into a delightful and provocatively manipulated repetitive grid, which often seems to explode into a mesmerizing backdrop of communicative shapes that produce patterns of a similar sort, like a bursting universe. An enormous white cubicle becomes an engaging theatre of symbols in a complex framework. A turn-of-the-century architectural blueprint is maneuvered into handsome customary letter form.
He also has become a master of depicting sets of disparate subjects, sometimes positioned in a square grid, such as an arrangement of images with hands as a common denominator, or a network of classical portraits by artists from Andy Warhol to Pablo Picasso, or close-ups of a variety of painted eyes by Paul Klee and James Rosenquist, among others.
Marini devised his own alphabet, utilizing unusual shapes that suggest letter forms engraved into a complex cubistic lattice, which also were used to embellish public transportation. The artist also developed another clever alphabet that shows nudes forming letter shapes with bare arms and legs accented by dashes of red paint. And he has constructed tall, mirrored obelisks decorated with his idiosyncratic symbols that not only reflect upon sidewalk pedestrians but magically prance as if the embellishments invite the viewer to participate in a theoretical square dance. In short, he has presented a novel way of looking at graphic shapes that become an identifiable personal sign language of bold colors and familiar profiles.
Marini recently captivated the crowds attending the Art Palm Beach + Contemporary fair, held recently at the grand Palm Beach County Convention Center, with his ambitious floating installation suspended from the ceiling that consisted of hundreds of filaments strung with symbols and letter shapes mounted on plexiglass. Viewers were encouraged to walk amongst this forest of gently swaying, hanging ‘cards’ and make their own personal pathway through a maze of dangling particles. Marini’s “a-maze”-ing collective compositions and individual letter forms and graphic symbols are the results of years of experimentation and examination that, like many important artists in history, followed a self-propelled evolution of imageries with a manmade printed theme.
Artists who proceeded Marini, such as Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as well as others, gave statements that would clarify their positions and quantify an intrinsic attraction that would define a central premise. Other contemporary artists whose nomenclature is symbols and text include Barbara Kruger (I shop therefore I am!), Jenny Holzer (words that matter), Ed Ruscha (water drops), Bruce Nauman (eating my words), Jean-Michel Basquiat (who married letter fragments and image) and Banksy’s stenciled letters on walls. Not to be outdone, Marini has published his own 10-point manifesto (Movimento per la Liberazione delle Lettere) that basically covers all the bases by proposing an overview celebrating alphanumeric symbols that are scattered throughout the languages of this planet. In these distinctive proclamations, the artist declares that “letters are born free” and are shaped as architectural symbols to be used in crafting new encrypted landscapes. Letters possess their own individuality and intrinsic beauty, forming fragments of a “beautiful kaleidoscope.” According to the artist, each letter must become a work of art, marrying design and instinct, technique and wit, and spontaneous association.
Lorenzo Marini employs the weathered baton of alphabetic history that began when Homo sapiens, so called “modern humans” anatomically equal to us today, first appeared 200,000 years ago in Africa. Originally caves were a de facto studio where early humans made their abstracted marks—a form of decorative embellishment with symbols and lines. Cave art remains because it was protected from the elements— extending paleoarchaeologists a rare and well-preserved look at the artistic work of our ancestors. Today’s symbolism is often found in advertisements, corporate logos, and franchise documentation, which Marini commemorates in his often mysterious and adventuresome letter forms inspired by reaching back 40,000 years ago during the “creative explosion” when early humankind migrated from Africa during an Ice Age warm spell. Later the first alphabet initiated from Egyptian hieroglyphs in the Sinai area was eventually picked up by Phoenician traders in the 11th century BC, who adopted it and altered it to suit their own needs.
It is also noteworthy in the context of a Marini appropriation that paleoarchaeologists investigating Ice Age cave sites across Europe discovered that our ancestors repeatedly used thirty-two mysterious signs that still have fragments embedded in Marini compositions. Early man, who adored the color red (made from iron oxide), painted not only symbols but eye-catching abstract drawings of deer, horses, and human figures. In the same caves, explorers discovered abstract emblems: disks, triangles, dots, circles, and lines, which have implications for the origin of art and creativity as well as the evolution of the human condition and are a direct link to modern contemporary signs and representational gestures. This charmingly simple collection of signs and symbols is remarkably still recognizable today; an asterisk, circle, cordiform, crosshatch, arches, dots, half circles, hands, hearts, serpentiform, squares, spirals and stripes, discs, triangles, and finally a zigzag, which thousands of years later have been inventively incorporated in modern corporate symbols, including the Amazon smile (a dash), McDonald’s (golden arches), Nike (wing), Mobil (red circle), the Red Cross, and early storefront symbols from a pawn shop, baker, barber shop or clockmaker.
So, evolution plays an important role in the detection, application, and practical progression of early forms that eventually matured into alphabets around the world, all different but from the same early source of man’s commanding instinct to communicate.
Lorenzo Marini respectfully follows this great graphic tradition by offering his own analysis of signage placement and incorporating a great ritual of communicative symbols into enchanting compositions that even include his own unique alphabet. As an artist Marini follows a respected tradition of reinterpreting and rendering language forms that are the lifeblood of his memorable compositions. Whether exploding kaleidoscopic compositions or body types where human figures bend into suggestive letter forms, transparent walls of floating graphic shapes, or an astute contemporary square showcasing a novel coded writing system, Marini masterfully has built a new explicit artistic definition that also describes an exclusively visual language and juxtaposes the vernacular capacity of advertising symbols and letter forms with the ancient intimacy and purity of painted graphic gestures.
Bruce Helander is an artist who started his career as a sign painter and calligrapher. His “love letter” versions of twenty-six alphabetic collage images are in the permanent collection of the Norton Museum of Art. He is a former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. As an art critic, his reviews have been published frequently in The Huffington Post, ARTnews, and Forbes. His collages have appeared in The New Yorker. His latest books include “Hunt Slonem – Bunnies” and “Dale Chihuly: An Artist Collects” (Abrams, Inc.).