Critics’ Picks

Alessandro Scarabello, Phoenix, 2018, oil on canvas, 34 x 28 3/4".

Alessandro Scarabello, Phoenix, 2018, oil on canvas, 34 x 28 3/4".


Alessandro Scarabello

The Gallery Apart
Via Francesco Negri, 43
January 9–February 28, 2020

The title of Alessandro Scarabello’s sixth exhibition here, “I Still Paint,” is both ironic and emblematic. The artist has always immersed himself in the language of painting, pushing his practice to engage with the medium’s myriad possibilities. In recent years, alongside a move from Rome to Brussels, Scarabello has begun to abandon his interest in the human figure (evident in his scarecrows and masks, for example). He hasn’t given up, however, the seduction of disguise, theater, mystery, or myth (see Prometeus [Prometheus], 2017); now his subjects seem to emerge from a metaphysical imagination, in which figuration flows into abstraction. In Phoenix, 2018, an ordinary clothesline activates memories and impressions, opening up to the gaze like the titular Arabian bird in full flight. Scarabello’s attentiveness to old masters inspires him to work with glazes, layer planes, and construct compositions with rapid, dry brushstrokes.

Compared to those of his previous period, characterized by refined and detailed surfaces, the recent paintings reveal a more uncertain and unfinished style. Scarabello’s approach to color has also changed: “I Still Paint” communicates an evident interest in monochromes, as in Opera Rubra (tripthyc), 2019, a triptych in black and red that takes its inspiration from Pomarancio’s fresco cycle in the Palazzo della Corgna. Whiteness bursts through the works shown on the gallery’s lower floor, effecting a transparency that makes it possible to glimpse the paintings’ background layers and dwell on the details suggested by a few strongly evocative strokes, as in the chevron pattern in Movimento (Spicatum) (Movement [Spicatum]), 2018, or the table-bound goblet in Phoenix (Banquit) (Phoenix [Banquet]), 2018, barely hinted at by a meager mark executed with the wooden tip of Scarabello’s brush.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.