Massimo Bramandi’s traveling exhibit focused on the concept of human dignity in the time of the economical crisis, using art, painting, sculpture, performances and installations as a vehicle of social and human support by empathy and dynamic reflection of each one face among the others. As a means which can give a voice and a face to Shelbox workers in Castelfiorentino, making them seen as people and not as statistic numbers.

Tuscany Region, Castelfiorentino district and all the other town of Circondario Empolese Valdelsa sustained with certainty the expositive project L’Immagine Riflessa belonging to Massimo Bramandi, which was developed in an interesting and innovative itinerary with a deep cultural and social value.
The object of Bramandi’s analysis is the troubled situation of Shelbox Workers in Castelfiorentino, whose faces are presented by the artist in a whole majestic art piece assembled in series of tiles, whose repetitiveness reduces the sense of any individual identity to increase and transmit the choral dimension of the human tragedy which involves them who lost their job.

“L’immagine riflessa” is centred on a monumental art piece, “Gli invisibili”, three panels whose measure reaches 6 x 2 meters, which present 65 portraits (mixed technique on canvas) of 65 Shelbox workers’ faces. 65 of the 147 who lost their job after the bankrupt of the firm: real people, whose gaze contains the real tragedy, but with soft, transparent, almost invisible profiles. A way to underline that the missing of a job cancels, fades, near to make you disappeare. A tragedy more and more collective, as underlined by the mirror inside the art piece, which let every visitor look themselves in the mirror and see themselves at the same level of the workers without a job.

The art show was inaugurated with a performance, thought and acted by Bramandi with some of the workers. Actually, no more a canvas to be painted, but real-life people that the artist’s direction models for a few minutes in a living art-work. With the face covered by a white mask, workers with the artist form some geometric figures, then taking off the masks in turn, saying their names and surnames, adding the words “Laid off worker”. Bramandi completes the performance articulating the First Article of Italian Constitution: “Italy is a Democratic Republic founded on job”.

Art in contemporary society becomes an essential element for symbolic communication crossing the line of aesthetic to income the one of ethic and thinking: the canvas becomes a mirror in which everybody can come inside the same art piece with the author himself, in a process of collaboration, creative cooperation and common responsibility.

The artist Bramandi
The performance is an amplifyer for the concept express on the canvas “Gli Invisibili”. Under every factory in difficulty there are the workers, real people witness of so many differences that the loss of the job can delete, fade, up to make them disappear. The watchword is job as a means to give back dignity to everybody.

REVIEWS, CRITIQUES, TESTIMONIES

Massimo […] creates his painting surface, building on the sign-de-sign, doing and undoing, often undetectably, suspending the image in a sort of transparent liquid materialized in light, plaster, often clayish, lunar colours. And he conveys the silences and inhuman solitude of the moon. According to me, this is the highest moment in his poetic and artistic research.

Carlo Maltese

Artist

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I met Massimo Bramandi a few years ago at a conference by the Società delle Belle Arti-Circolo degli Artisti, commonly known as Casa di Dante. During this accidental meeting, I was struck by some of his witty remarks concerning the paintings on display, and so began my interest for the young artist from Naples. It took some years for us to become friends and for me to deeply appreciate his work: this happened especially after his solo exhibition at the Lu.C.C.A. Center, in the underground halls of the Museum of Contemporary Art directed by Maurizio Vanni, and in the likewise important exposition
at Palazzo Pretorio in Certaldo Alto of 2011. These two events would have been sufficient to prove the talent of a neophyte artist! But it wasn’t enough for Massimo. In 2012 he won the contest “AP Art Up. Gioventù Creativa” in Ascoli Piceno; such an achievement attracted the attention of a distinguished panel of experts composed, among others, of
the sculptor Giuliano Giuliani from Ascoli Piceno, and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Actually, his pictorial work strikes and fascinates for the naturalness of the execution. But what is the philosophical-existential character that drives Bramandi to artistic production and inspires his work? In this travelling exhibition, the author presents a striking visual journey
that makes use of many expressive intuitions. For instance, in this wall installation, he turns the Shelbox workers’ faces into mythological characters moved by a silent grief, a modern version of the Holy Shroud, that is a living trace of human suffering that will last in time. The faces are often bony and the artist draws them as if trying to assert and deny at the same time; almost erasing what he has previously done, he leaves only a trace. This is how I met Massimo. He creates his painting surface, building on the sign-de-sign, doing and undoing, often undetectably, suspending the image in a
sort of transparent liquid materialized in light, plaster, often clayish, lunar colours. And he conveys the silences and inhuman solitude of the moon. According to me, this is the highest moment in his poetic and artistic research.

However, the inspection should not be limited to the disarming naturalness of his work, neither to its mere poetic goal. Not even considering the theme chosen by the artist – the tragedy of unemployment – would it be possible to develop a thorough comprehension of Massimo’s creativity. The history of art provides countless examples of artists who dedicated their effort to the world of workers, initially only peasants. From Francois Millett to Vincent van Gogh, from Giovanni Segantini to Campigli, from Carlo Carrà to Mario Sironi, from Renato Guttuso to Piero Tredici, and so on: there have been many artists, especially left wingers, that have addressed the issues of the working class as sources of inspiration and/or criticism.

The working class struggle of 1919 and 1920 (the so-called Red Biennium), and the following ones before the advent of Fascism, had left a trace in the conscience of sensitive people, as artists are. But it’s not by looking at such personalities of the past – even though they brought forward such issues that must have inspired Massimo – that
one may find a connection between his present iconographic research and his mind.

One needs, instead, to consider that the artist is usually a careful observer of the world around. The eyes and thoughts of the artist inspect a universe of information stemming from a globalized system that is constantly changing, eager to find new horizons, but with no certainties. Bramandi is the interpreter of such uncertainties and precariousness, that affect not only the world of work, but also human knowledge, that are both called into question by new findings. This is what the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman defines as “liquid thinking”, that affects Internet users. It is in this implicit concept that the originality of Massimo’s work should be found. Not only does he share the Shelbox worker’s precariousness, but his painting leaves space for change, modification and erasure. What would be the meaning of the mirror if not the clear sign of an active involvement of the public that become integral part of the work and modify it with their appearance/disappearance; with the change brought by every new face; with the erasure of previous ones every time a new onlooker steps forward? I do believe that such is the revelation that Massimo Bramandi proposes with his works on display, which reveal a strong commitment in-becoming. Through the sign, he becomes an interpreter of the discomfort that has been afflicting our society for many years. He is skilful in overcoming the contingency of facts and looking beyond. The works do not only represent the faces of Shelbox’s workers, but also those of a suffering mankind.

Seen from this perspective, the protest becomes solemn, a shout of despair that turns into a universal pain for the existential condition of men. But, of course, shouts are also part of demonstrations; they belong to protesters and picketers. Here, in his works, there is an absolute silence. The silence of those who can humbly pick up that discomfort and turn it, through painting and colour, into the silence of the strong.

I was especially touched by the majesty and evocative beauty of the Shelbox worker’s faces he portrayed; I also appreciated the “artistic growth” that Massimo has shown during the years. I had already met Massimo Bramandi when I was the Mayor of Castelfiorentino: back then he was very young, but already resolute to realize his own project of a life devoted to art. When I look at him now, so mature both as a man and an artist, I feel joyful and proud.

Laura Cantini

Senator of the Italian Republic

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I am very pleased to contribute to the presentation of the catalogue realised by Massimo Bramandi
as part of a project – promoted by the Municipalities of Empoli, Valdelsa and the Florentine Chianti with the support of Regione Toscana – dedicated to the difficult events of a company and its bad management, which caused a bankruptcy that has affected other companies and has proved devastating for more than 150 families of this area.

I was especially touched by the majesty and evocative beauty of the Shelbox worker’s faces he portrayed; I also appreciated the “artistic growth” that Massimo has shown during the years. I had already met Massimo Bramandi when I was the Mayor of Castelfiorentino: back then he was very young, but already resolute to realize his own project of a life devoted to art. When I look at him now, so mature both as a man and an artist, I feel joyful and proud.

I cannot but appreciate his initiative, uncommon and for that still more valuable, to reproduce in a work of art the hardships of a company in crisis, especially those concerning many men and women that have been spending many months picketing the factory to show their determination and devotion to their job, as well as their intention to keep on fighting. This commitment, in turn, involves the institutions demanded to keep supporting this struggle.

The faces portrayed remind us of the centrality of men, as well as the importance of a “community in solidarity”, that Castelfiorentino has once again proved to be. They remind us of the suffering of those who are worried about an uncertain future, both for themselves and their own children.
However, they also remind us that only by “staying together” one can overcome the crisis, and that every action in support of the workers of Shelbox is valuable: especially if it turns out to be a work of art, as that of Massimo Bramandi.

“L’immagine riflessa”, one of the young artist Massimo Bramandi’s works, is born from the sensitiveness to nowadays problems of the reality in which we live. Particularly he was inspired by the tragedy which befell his community, his countrymen with Selbox crisis.

Paolo Marini

Regional Councilor

Read full article by PAOLO MARINI

“L’immagine riflessa”, one of the young artist Massimo Bramandi’s works, is born from the sensitiveness to nowadays problems of the reality in which we live. Particularly he was inspired by the tragedy which befell his community, his countrymen with Selbox crisis.

Taking inspiration from the workers district, which was in the factory, he felt and lived with them the pain of many men and women who were fighting not only for their own job, but for the life itself and the future of their children.

64 faces painted in a big puzzle through which all expressions, emotions, pains, hopes for a better future are shining.

Protecting their own job means defending their-selves and reaffirming the concept that only through working a man can conquer and maintain the dignity owed to everyone.
Shelbox workers decided to do it together, with a cohesion which means sharing, with the awareness that only staying linked and solid they could go through this deep crisis.

The credit, actually, belongs to the Author who managed to catch and paint the essence which connected all these people and who raised it as an art work, knowing that he didn’t just painted faces, but he made the “reflected image” of each one’s soul.

Bramandi’s initiative is conceived as a moment of aesthetic reflection on the concept of human dignity in a time of economic crisis; the artist acts with the tools of his craft – painting, sign, performance – reinforcing the role of contemporary art as a vehicle of social and human solidarity.
Bramandi’s “reflected” work is part of the social space, it becomes a cornerstone for interaction and dialogue: the canvas turns into a mirror, so that anyone can be part of the same work together with the author, thus establishing a process of collaboration, creative cooperation, and common responsibility.

Sara Nocentini

Councilor for Culture, Tourism and Trade of the Tuscany Region

Read full article by SARA NOCENTINI

Regione Toscana has eagerly supported Massimo Bramandi’s exhibition itinerary. “L’immagine riflessa” (The Reflected Image), which could be realized thanks to the the institutional collaboration of the Municipality of Castelfiorentino, the leading authority, together with the Union of the Municipalities of the area of Empoli and Valdelsa. The exhibition followed an intriguing itinerary in this territory, thus proving to be of great cultural and social value.

Bramandi’s initiative is conceived as a moment of aesthetic reflection on the concept of human dignity in a time of economic crisis; the artist acts with the tools of his craft – painting, sign, performance – reinforcing the role of contemporary art as a vehicle of social and human solidarity.

Bramandi investigates the complex situation of the workers of Shelbox in Castelfiorentino. His unique and majestic work displays the workers’ faces in consecutive tiles, the repetitiveness of which reduces the sense of the individual, but reinforces and transmits the collective and dramatic dimension of the human tragedy of those who have lost their job.

In contemporary society, art becomes a key element of a symbolic communication that allows to grasp the deep inclinations of a culture; art is both social consciousness, and an instrument of reflection: it goes beyond the field of aesthetics, and becomes an element of ethics and thought.

Bramandi’s “reflected” work is part of the social space, it becomes a cornerstone for interaction and dialogue: the canvas turns into a mirror, so that anyone can be part of the same work together with the author, thus establishing a process of collaboration, creative cooperation, and common responsibility.

The aim of Regione Toscana is to reinforce and nurture all those artistic experiences and realities of the territory that work with competence and present quality cultural activities: L’immagine riflessa is an important step for the establishment of a cohesive regional system of contemporary art.

The Artist Massimo Bramandi together with the Shelbox workers, his image reflected among the invisible ones to participate in the social drama that they are facing: the loss of work.

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L’Immagine Riflessa is an art project by Massimo Bramandi