Corrado Abate is an artist and wood sculptor who lives in Milan, Italy.  I saw his work online and was intrigued by it.  So, I contacted him and we had a nice chat about his work, his life and why he thinks Italy need to “Wake Up.”

MICHAEL: Hello Corrado, Your work is great. You do a lot of sculptural work with wood. Why do you like wood so much?

CORRADO: My English is so bad, sorry. I was born in wood between carpenters and farmers. Wood is really similar to the human condition. It's organic.  It lives and it dies. It's the only material with this feature. I have worked with many materials, for a long time, but I never found satisfaction or sense. Four years ago, I re-discovered the wood and that was the beginning.

MICHAEL: So are you an artist or more of a sculptor? Most of your works are not paintings, but 3-D sculptural works aren't they?

CORRADO: I do not know if I am a sculptor or what. I love matter. I fight with her. The way, the rules and destinations are not important. It's a war. If the work ends up on a wall or a floor, I'll decide at the end of the battle.
Surely I don't work with the sign, but a lot of works on paper are not sculptures; they are something like painting, with wood, with iron and with fire.

MICHAEL: Where did you get the idea for the manhole drawings? They look like stencils from actual covers on the ground in New York City.

CORRADO: I've always been attracted by the manholes, they are a kind of door between the world as we know and the underground one. Last summer, I was in New York for an exhibition. I had some time, so I started to travel across the U.S. to New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and then New York.  A lot of miles. I loved every inch of those roads. And the below? How are those places that I've seen on the surface? I started to cover some manholes with paper sheets and when cars passed through, their tires drew the paper. I called them, "Car Frottage.”

MICHAEL: Wow, you've probably seen more of America than most Americans. What American city do you like the most?

CORRADO: This is not a question. You are American, I'm Italian. For every child growing up in another country during the 80's, "l'America" is more than a place, it's fantasy. The first time I was in the U.S., I thought I was being in a movie. Last year it was different. What struck me the most is the people. Every man has a story to tell! I feel that every man who has to do something, he does it at the best. Your country has a lot of contradictions, but not among the people. I also saw some depressed areas. Even if everything goes wrong, people have a lot of dignity. In Italy, it’s not the same.

MICHAEL: How is Italy different? You live in Milan. That is a very hip, stylish place, no?

CORRADO: Sixty years of incompetent politicians, thieves and liars have destroyed a country with a 1000-year history. Milan is the only Italian city with an international face. Whoever wants to do creative work can only work in Milan to be in contact with the world. The rest of Italy is a museum. This is the problem, especially in the art; we live in the past. We survive thanks to the past. The Italians do not say anything new from 40 years.

MICHAEL: Wow, and so, how does this affect you? Are you frustrated? Does this make it hard for you to create your art? How do you get inspiration?

CORRADO: Frustration is a thing for the feckless. It's true, for the artists there are no facilities like in other European countries and it’s more difficult, but I believe in the sacrifice. So I work harder and harder waiting for better times.

MICHAEL: What's the situation like for contemporary art in Italy? Italy is the home of ancient art, but do people appreciate contemporary art? I see Rome has the new Maxxi Contemporary Art Museum.

CORRADO: Maxxi is a great project, but it is the only modern museum.
The government cuts the funds from culture for many years. Fortunately, we have some good private foundations. The situation in Italy is that we are sleeping for too many years, and we need to wake up. Quickly.

MICHAEL: Are you a full time artist? What are you working on right now?

CORRADO: Art is my job. But I need a lot of money for new projects.
Otherwise, I work like set designer for advertising and fashion shoots.
Right now, I am doing some research and experimentation. And then, I'm doing some big works on paper, on which I apply slices of wood, cut up like a sausage.

MICHAEL: Don't we all need a lot of money! What's the inspiration behind your works on paper with the wood? Why are you doing this?

CORRADO: I don't use a pencil for my work. I apply the wood to paper; that’s the way I use to draw. Creating geometries and maniacally ordering wooden tiles on a sheet of paper is my way to do self-discipline. As in my last work, "Defragmentation of Mind“, I ordered 121 thin pieces of oak in a grid of 11 x 11 pieces, as 121 thoughts. Then I took each of them and I broke them with the hands or teeth. At last, I reassembled and I pasted the pieces as in a diagram, a bit like in the programs to defragment the hard drive of a PC. In those days, I was very confused and this work was a way to make order in my mind. Art is a form of diagnosis and treatment for my mind.

MICHAEL: I love your wood works. You use wood for a good reason, but what do you think of the way society has used wood? Look at the rainforest in Brazil. It's disappearing!

CORRADO: Man has always sacrificed the trees to his will. Man has always sacrificed animals too and the earth. I eat meat, I play with the wood, I pollute the planet. I have never killed a cow, I have never cut down a tree, I have never destroyed an ecosystem. I let someone do it for me. We are men. We are the worst predators. We are animals that have developed something so cruel as intelligence can be. I play only with the oak and walnut trees that grow in my land, because they are the trees of my folks and that wood is impregnated with their stories. Fortunately, we have laws that regulate deforestation. I could not use trees at risk of extinction or that help us to breathe on the planet. But this maybe is a justification. I am fortunate to be an artist. I can allow myself an ethic. But what if I were the boss of a company that produces wooden floors?

MICHAEL: Well, thankfully you’re not.  Finally Corrado, what do you want people to see and feel when they look at your work?

CORRADO: I work a piece of wood. I try to analyze the human condition, telling the instincts of our existence. Sometimes people see something in it.
If what they see in it coincides with my story that means that I have been a good artist. Finally art is man.

MICHAEL: Thanks Corrado.  Cool chat.

Check out Corrado’s work at