Critics’ Picks

Claudio Parmiggiani, Il Sogno di Marcellino (The Dream of Marcellinus), 1977, boat model, plaster cast, books, rope, 43 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 11".

New York

Claudio Parmiggiani

Bortolami Gallery
520 West 20th Street
October 9–November 15, 2014

A severe silence sets the tone for Claudio Parmiggiani’s first solo exhibition in the United States in three decades: In Untitled, 2014, a sixteenth-century ecclesiastical bronze bell, is gagged and gibbeted by its tongue above the entryway to this gallery—a portent that announces a puissant presentation of Parmiggiani’s oeuvre. And yet it tolls for no one. In the next room, a three-dimensional iron stake pierces an untitled photographic print of the artist’s palm—a self-inflicted stigmata that undermines the artist’s own authorial taction. Transversely installed is Che mangia questo pane vivrà in eterno (Giovanni 6,58) (Whoever eats this bread will live forever (Gospel of St. John, 6, 58)), 1997, which offers 365 loaves of bread cast in bronze and piled in a corner of the gallery—ironclad dogma in the guise of spiritual nourishment.

Negation and the transfiguration of absence remain central themes throughout Parmiggiani’s fifty-year career: Delocazione (Delocation), 2014, is the fuliginous remains of a once-existent frame hung on wood manifest in an image of a painting now destitute of materiality. Here, the volatility of fire and fume have transubstantiated into palpable pigment, evoking perennial visions. In Il Sogno di Marcellino (The Dream of Marcellinus), 1977, a pile of books placed on the floor supports a horizontal plaster cast of a classical visage; it’s topped by a model sailing ship in an oneiric lamentation on the status of the contemporary artist. Parmiggiani’s long employment of a classical Catholic symbolic tradition illustrates the paradox of all who, like Marcellinus, undergo the creation of their own narrative: free to navigate the unknown waters of their time yet anchored by the weight and authority of a historiography that precedes them.