Roberto Cuoghi is one of the most enigmatic, mysterious and fascinating Italian artists of his generation.Read More
Through an array of unconventional techniques, Cuoghi’s paintings, drawings, sculptures and animations bear the imperative to always contest the known, the familiar, the accepted, and the understood.
Concepts of perpetual experimentation, rule breaking, continuous and processual learning are central to his work.
To mention only iconic examples, Il Coccodeista (1997), a series of works on paper based on the artist’s decision to spend days wearing glasses whose lenses had been replaced with Schmidt-Pechan prisms which invert and overturn vision.
Or the careful study of the Assyrian language and rituals, that lead since 2008 to a series of reproductions in an average-sized or large format of a small statue-talisman portraying the god-demon Pazuzu in which Cuoghi explores the potential of each element used, comprising not just traditional materials such as wood and stone, but also resins, adhesives, solvents and even worms and bacteria.
Similarly, the sound installations Šuillakku (2008) and Šuillakku Corral (2014)—which, together with Mbube (2005) and Mei Gui (2006) form a veritable 'rhapsody of injustice'—Cuoghi manages to recreate a possible liturgical song of collective lament and affliction of the entire Assyrian people as they abandon the city of Nineveh. Not only does he offer a possible reconstruction of ancient Assyrian music, which is completely unknown to us, but also he performs each single sound and reconstructs in his studio each single musical instrument employed, based on scrupulous iconographic research and careful discussions with experts.
Among his most recent sculptural projects, based on a similar almost-performative preparation, Cuoghi combines sophisticated 3D technology with traditional firing techniques to create an invasion of ceramic crabs on the Greek Island of Hydra, where this animal has long been extinct (Putiferio, 2016).
Finally, his project for the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale, in which the artist transforms the basilica-like space of the Arsenal into a factory for churning out devotional figures inspired by the Imitation of Christ, a medieval text of Christian doctrine that describes the path to achieving ascetic. Cuoghi introduces us to an experimental process of sculpting matter, reflecting on the magical power of images, the force of repetition, and the iconographic memory of art history. The installation—a workshop set up for producing these sculptures from start to finish, from casting the organic material in a single mould all the way to the phase of stabilisation—did not cease to evolve from the opening of the exhibition: it kept to unfold through decomposition and composition, death and regeneration. The entire process has been conceived so as never to yield the same outcome, creating a sense of dissociation that seems to echo the present moment.
The artist’s first comprehensive monograph will accompany the exhibition. This richly illustrated 500 pages catalogue, published by Hatje Cantz, will include new essays by Andrea Bellini, Andrea Cortellessa, Anthony Huberman, Charlotte Laubard and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis in addition to a compilation of previous interviews and texts by the artist, and a complete chronology and bibliography.
Solo exhibitions were held at Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève, Switzerland and Madre Museum, Naples, Italy (2017); DESTE Foundation, Hydra, Greece (2016); Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2014–2015) ; Aspen Art Museum (2015) ; the New Museum, New York, NY (2014); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011); the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2008).
His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions at important venues worldwide, such as the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2018); Italian Pavilion of the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale (2017); Collection Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: Have you seen me before?, Whitechapel Gallery, London, (2013); The Encyclopedic Palace, the 55th Venice Biennale, (2013); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO (2012); Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2010); New Museum, New York (2010); 53rd Venice Biennale, (2009); Deste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, Athens (2007); Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy (2007); and 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2006).
Text courtesy Galerie Chantal Crousel.
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