A frequent visitor to the Blu Cammello workshop in Livorno, he was first discovered by the artist Riccardo Bargellini. The hybrid sculptures he produces are composed of assembled objects whose links are prominent. Observed through the prism of their transitional, fetishistic or apotropaic value, they have been presented in several major exhibitions such as the monograph dedicated to him at the MAD Museum in Liège, Banditi dell’arte (Halle Saint Pierre) and art brut, abcd/Bruno Decharme collection (Maison rouge) in Paris. “These works are invested with a symbolic power that many “professional” artists are unable to achieve.” (P. Dagen, Le Monde)
The youngest of three children, Franco Bellucci was born in Livorno (Italy) in 1945. A severe brain lesion delays his psychological development and deprives him of the ability to speak. As a teenager, he shows compulsively destructive behavior towards the objects around him. This aggressiveness is never directed towards others or towards himself.
On February 15, 1961, during the total solar eclipse that darkened the northern Italian sky, in the throes of a seizure, he throws his television out the window. After a time in hospital in Livorno, where he destroys a large part of the hospital’s furniture, the doctors commit him to the Volterra psychiatric hospital. He will spend most of the day tied to his bed. Feared for his extraordinary strength, he is especially known for breaking window panes, tearing off radiators and taps, which causes him serious hand injuries.
In 1978, after the entry into force of Law 180 providing for the closing down and dismantling of all psychiatric hospitals, his family welcoms him back. His first move, after so many years of absence, is to rush to his room to open the drawer where he kept his toys. They’re all there.
Diagnosed as an “irrecoverable asylum residue”, he returned to the Volterra psychiatric hospital, no longer attached but still confined, until 1998. The following year, he is welcomed by Dr. Ivanna Bianco and her team at the Franco Basaglia “open doors” center in Livorno where the Blu Cammello workshop has just been created under the direction of Riccardo Bargellini.
In this residence where respect for the individual is the foundation of therapeutic care, Franco wanders freely. Bargellini is particularly interested in this feared man in the hospital structure. He discovers that Franco walks in a pendular rhythm, always holding small objects tied together in his large hands: underwear attached to plastic containers taken from housekeepers, pieces of water hoses collected from gardeners’ equipment, socks stolen from roommates, etc. Later on, Bargellini discovers that every weekend, after visiting his brother, Franco comes back with a gift, very often an extension cord, sometimes stuffed animals. These objects immediately become materials for new assemblies that replace the previous ones.
Exploring the buildings as well as the park around the center on a daily basis in order to collect objects scattered by Franco right up to the rooftops, Bargellini succeeds in establishing contact. He finally gains his confidence by providing him with various objects and materials through the back door: it’ s the beginning of a game and a story.
In recent years, the strength of the invisible ties between these two men has allowed Franco to break away from the hospital’s coercive ties by replacing them with a new relational network. Together, they continue to maintain an effective and privileged environment allowing the “master binder” to live and develop his work. His work was included, in 2013, in the group show Banditi dell’Arte at the Halle Saint Pierre, in Paris, and presented in a solo exhibition at the MADmusée de Liège in 2014-2015, while a wall was dedicated to him at the same time at the Maison rouge in Paris, during the exhibition Art brut, collection abcd/Bruno Decharme.
Preface : Gustavo Giacosa
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Franco Bellucci : beau comme…, from october 17th to november 28th, 2015.