Critics’ Picks

View of “Giuseppe Penone.” Foreground: La Geometria nelle mani (The Geometry in the Hands), 2007. Background, left to right: Pelle di grafite (riflesso di rodonite) (The Skin of Graphite [Reflection of Rodonite]) and Pelle di grafite (riflesso di uraninite) (The Skin of Graphite [Reflection of Uraninite]), both 2003–2006.

View of “Giuseppe Penone.” Foreground: La Geometria nelle mani (The Geometry in the Hands), 2007. Background, left to right: Pelle di grafite (riflesso di rodonite) (The Skin of Graphite [Reflection of Rodonite]) and Pelle di grafite (riflesso di uraninite) (The Skin of Graphite [Reflection of Uraninite]), both 2003–2006.

Paris

Giuseppe Penone

Marian Goodman Gallery | Paris
79 rue du Temple
May 30–July 12, 2008

With a consummate sense of form and surface, Giuseppe Penone renders this group of new and recent large-scale works with the distilled, intimate touch of a quick sketch on paper. Here, three large, multipanel graphite drawings, each titled Pelle di grafite (Graphite Skin), 2003–2006, two on black paper and one on black canvas, hang on each of the three windowless walls of the gallery’s ground floor. Penone creates abstract patterns, suggestive of vegetal or animal membranes, in luminous graphite. His marks on the dark matte backgrounds are wide tipped and deliberate, furthering the reflective potential of the medium that gracefully links these wall-based works to the bronze and chrome sculpture, La Geometria nelle mani (The Geometry in the Hands), 2007, standing at the heart of the room. Tucking a mold of his hand into the center of the thick chrome panel, otherwise polished to a mirror finish, Penone introduces an imperfection to the surface and creates a short, dark tunnel beneath the gleaming top layer. He uses the impression of his palm and fingertips again, but many times larger, to produce the shape and texture of the sculpture’s broad bronze base.

Downstairs, Lo spazio della scultura (Pelle di cedro) (The Space of Sculpture [Skin of Cedar]), 2001, also takes its physical form from the imprint of natural surfaces. Following one of Versailles's worst winter storms, in December 1999, when more than ten thousand trees, many more than two hundred years old, were uprooted around the park surrounding the historic palace, the artist acquired a group of the upturned trunks. He has used bronze casts of twenty-four roughly three-by-five-foot sections of the tree bark to create a gridded patchwork of skin on the gallery floor. There is just enough space between the casts to walk carefully through. A single piece of leather is draped atop a spindly construction of cast-bronze tree branches and one of the bronze bark plaques. One senses an effort to mend certain wounds but also a desire for the space to mourn, as well as time to recognize that some traumas will never heal.