These complex relief textures found in Pomodoro’s sculptures have often been interpreted by critics as systems of undecipherable writing, resembling imitations of ancient sacred stones and tablets. Bronze is one of the most popular materials used in traditional sculpture–making, dating back to 2500 B.C. Combined with the fact that a number of Pomodoro’s early works take the forms of tall columns reminiscent of the ancient obelisks in Egypt and Rome, it’s reasonable to assume that the artist has an interest in primal culture.
Pomodoro, however, has refuted these claims and labels his textures instead as ciphers hinting at futuristic communication. In contrast to the ancient characteristics perceived by many critics, Pomodoro actually pays homage to technological innovations of the mid–20th century. Both the title and the flat, curved shape of Grande Radar, as well as the rest of the radar shape series, which Pomodoro created from 1962 to 1963, originate from radar technology that had rapidly advanced in the 1930s and 1940s.
The world saw abundant demand for such progress especially after World War II began in 1939. Radars acted as eyes for both the Allies and the Axis powers in spotting enemy airplanes, ships, and submarines, and their ability to navigate aircrafts, direct gunfire, and recognize hostile advances before attacks were launched was a vital factor in winning the war. Research and development groups for radar technology became prevalent in Pomodoro’s home country after it joined the Allies in 1943, resulting in plenty of exposure for the emerging artist.
Radar technology continued to grow and develop post–war, often taking the form of curved parabolic dishes or uniform rectangular scaffolds. Pomodoro’s other works in the radar series explore these two shapes; Radar n. 1 is essentially a curved rectangular prism while the other four radar sculptures all resemble satellite dishes. Grande Radar, which means “large radar” in Italian, is the largest and final sculpture in the series. It most closely resembles Radar n. 1, though the curvature is in the horizontal direction rather than the vertical
Despite his acknowledgement of radar technology, Pomodoro maintains his destructive impulse. On each radar shape, he presents a conflict of bronze body and jagged relief carvings. Like all pieces in this series, Grande Radar looks as if it’s crumbling apart at the intersections of the two distinct areas. We often see technology–inspired forms coming apart in Pomodoro’s other sculptures as well. He explains that:
he strives to “capture [a] sense of foreboding, of a certain anxiety about the course of events at that time in our history…to suggest that the misuse of our technology could destroy mankind.”
Correspondingly, radars and rapid progress in other modern technology caused World War II to become one of the deadliest wars in history.
Pomodoro further addresses the dark side of technology via the size and arrangement of Grande Radar. The sculpture stands at a height of over eight feet, dwarfing any human observer viewing it in close proximity. Once produced, it exists autonomously and can no longer be easily moved or altered by the artist himself. In its current state, Grande Radar wields much more power than its human creator.
Additionally, the very sides of the curved radar partially obstruct the viewer’s peripheral vision when close in distance. Radar screens are meant to assist mankind in pinpointing specific object movements and obtaining more information than we can gather without technological help. However, the arc of Pomodoro’s sculpture goes against the original intentions of the technology—observers have smaller visual fields, and the amount of information available to us about our surroundings is therefore reduced. Instead of adding on to the material we can gather ourselves, Grande Radar hinders our intrinsic abilities instead, challenging the objectives of the exact device that inspired its form.