Critics’ Picks

Nicola Samorì, San Pietro all’inferno (Saint Peter in Hell), 2016, oil on linen, 118 x 67".


Nicola Samorì

Monitor | Rome
via Sforza Cesarini 43a Palazzo Sforza Cesarini
March 18–April 30

Nicola Samorì’s work pays homage to painting while also representing a rupture in its typical trappings. In his first solo show at this gallery, the artist explores different expressive possibilities: oil paintings (both small and large in scale), sculptures, and installations. With a shrewd execution of subjects from a predominantly Flemish and Baroque repertoire, Samorì reproduces isolated content, reprising historical vocabularies with consistent skill, only to sabotage the pictorial plane, incising it, opening it up, burning and transfiguring it.

In his process, sometimes coolly calculated, sometimes navigated with difficulty, Samorì embraces a loss of control, conjoining his admiration for “classical” painting and the experience of art informel, New Figuration and Spatialism. Throughout, he hints at the existence of a fourth dimension, evoking Lucio Fontana when the master, pondering lessons of Baroque painting, wrote, “The figures seem to abandon the plane and continue in space,” Samorì oscillates between the apex of lyricism and its demystification. In San Pietro all’inferno (Saint Peter in Hell), 2016, he skillfully evokes the colors of Guido Reni, to then strip away subjects’ flesh with putty knives, fingers, and blades. In Sfranto (Broken), 2015, Samorì reshapes an ancient walnut trunk that has been “worked” by insects, elevating it to become a bust of Christ on the cross. For Dama dello scorpione (Lady of the Scorpion), 2016, he used a scalpel to carve into the painted skin of figures in a tableau based on Raphael, leaving only their eyes unaltered and transforming the rest into a thin and vulnerable layer that collapses into the bottom of the work like a clot of color. His blade work conjures a passage by the writer Franco Rella: “Someone said that the caress hides the temptation of the scratch. But the scratch too in some way manifests a love that stretches out toward the figure.”

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.