Critics’ Picks

Massimo Bartolini, Pensive Bodhisattva (detail), 2017, enamel on galvanized iron, hydraulic motor, electronic control unit, bronze, 98 x 197 x 197".


Massimo Bartolini

Magazzino Roma
Via dei Prefetti, 17
November 29–January 31

Massimo Bartolini has a history of interrogating notions of absence and presence—and here he approaches his subjects from different emotional and conceptual angles, such as the longing for a distant lover or the effacement of a writer’s identity. All of his works point to contradictions of the real and how much we invest in and identify with our beliefs.

The two most impressive works in this exhibition mix Asian and European spiritual symbols with a minimalist rationalism. The Cartesian order of Pensive Bodhisattva, 2017, a large-scale iron structure, features an antique Korean statue of a Bodhisattva sitting in meditation that disappears and resurfaces every twenty-five minutes from a central, plinth-like construction. It alludes to those awakened ones who get reincarnated throughout the ages in order to bring back the Buddha’s teachings for the liberation of all sentient beings. Two schools of thought are at play here: the assertion of a thinking, logical mind and “no-mind,” or a state of pure selflessness. This contrast causes Eastern and Western ideas surrounding identity and oneness to collide.

Bartolini’s most touching and profound work, My Seventh Homage: La Montaigne, 2016—four photographic prints retouched with charcoal—depict a flat-topped hill, described by the artist as Golgotha, against a dark, gloomy background. Seen from four different perspectives, this seemingly solid form becomes a void. The missing cross upon which Christ was crucified reveals the illusory nature of religion but provides us with a clear space for the cultivation of a more intimate spirituality inherent to all humans, devoid of icons.