Critics’ Picks

View of “Nicola Samorì: Sfregi,” 2021.

View of “Nicola Samorì: Sfregi,” 2021.

Bologna

Nicola Samorì

Palazzo Fava
Via Manzoni, 2, 40121
April 8–July 25, 2021

The approximately eighty works gathered in Palazzo Fava for “Sfregi” (Scars), Nicola Samorì’s first major retrospective in Italy, offer a baroque, nonlinear journey through techniques of construction and deconstruction, ruination and transformation, skillfully developed over the past twenty years. Plundering masterpieces from the past, particularly from the seventeenth century, Samorì reclaims subjects beloved by art history and distresses, disfigures, and strips away their surfaces. The artist’s recent statement—“I breed and torture images”—captures the dialectic at play in his work: Through a constant dialogue with materials, he dismantles in order to create anew.

The first floor of the exhibition is dominated by a dialogue between his work and the friezes in situ. The Carraccis’ scene of Aeneas genuflecting before a statue of Apollo presides over Samorì’s Marsyas in Cammino Cannibale (Cannibal Trail), 2018-19, a cycle of six frescos, each one detached from its predecessor and tampered with by the artist. The second floor is host to paintings and sculptures created by Samorì from the discarded scraps from other works (for example the extraordinary Idolo anemico [Anemic Idol], 2016), as well as more recent pieces that employ onyx in order to play with the stone’s imperfections, such as Lucia, 2019, a picture of the holy protector of sight with two geodes instead of eyes.

Samorì engages in an informel-style dance with his materials. In Testa con lacrima (Head with Teardrop), 2017, he wields an engraver’s knife and flays off the oil paint, applied to the canvas only two or, at most, three days before. He departs from the periphery of the face and peels away in concentric circles until he reaches the eye of the depicted young girl, stripping the portrait of its classical figurative function. In Lienzo, 2014, the image of an attenuated, supine Jesus (based on Philippe de Champaigne’s The Dead Christ, ca. 1654) is decorticated and draped across the canvas: The savior’s body becomes its own burial shroud.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.