Critics’ Picks

View of “Roberto Cuoghi,” 2017.

View of “Roberto Cuoghi,” 2017.


Roberto Cuoghi

Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève
10, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers
February 22–April 30, 2017

When Roberto Cuoghi arrived in Milan in the mid-1990s, he was a punk. In a certain sense, he still is, and not only because of the Mohawk he still sports. Since 1996—the earliest date among the works in this midcareer retrospective curated by Andrea Bellini—the artist has remained faithful to principles of punk philosophy: particularly the systematic questioning of tradition and authority (in art contexts and elsewhere) and a DIY ethos. The latter has seen him lean toward a trial-and-error-driven autodidacticism, his techniques often yielding novel results. These strategies span his entire artistic output, from “Il Coccodeista,” 1997, a series of self-portraits he created while wearing eyeglasses with optical prisms that inverted his field of vision, to his very recent sculptures in organic materials corroded by mold. The rich and strange body of work on view exists between these two extremes, and includes “Asincroni” (Asynchronies), 2003, paintings on glass and acetate, constructed through the patient addition of layers; P(VIIIVt)mm/ac/v), 2004, one of a series of black paintings; two laborious sound works, Mei Gui, 2006, and Šuillakku, 2008, that pay tribute to victims of injustice; and a series of sculptures that rework effigies of the Assyrian demon Pazuzu, whose presumed powers Cuoghi simultaneously summons and scorns. If the range of Cuoghi’s work is so eclectic it sometimes seems maniacal, this show finally highlights an overall trajectory and recurrent themes. What stands out above all is the subject of potential future identities. Case in point: See the photographic portrait of an Italian collector, F(XVIR)I, 2006, in a macabre staging, as a cadaver eaten by worms.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.