Critics’ Picks

Paolo Canevari, Mamma, 2000, rubber tubing, dimensions variable.

Paolo Canevari, Mamma, 2000, rubber tubing, dimensions variable.


Paolo Canevari

Palazzo Collicola
Piazza Collicola, 1
July 7–October 31, 2020

The “materia oscura” that gives this show its title is Paolo Canevari’s medium itself: inner tubes and tires for tractors and trucks, cars, Vespas, and go-carts. The material, inert and poor, rough and dirty, is in his hands transformed into pliable sculptures of bitter, enigmatic beauty. In his three-decade exploration of the formal and affective properties of rubber, Canevari has created tanks and bombs, monoliths and Colosseums, revealing himself to be a worthy heir to a generation of Roman artists from the ’60s who worked between nature and artifice, such as Pino Pascali and Gino Marotta.

The works cover the entire span of Canevari’s production since his early Tortili (Camera d’aria) (Twisted [Inner Tubes]), 1991, which bend in soft Baroque spirals, suspended from the frescoed ceiling of the gallery in the eighteenth-century Palazzo Collicola. Although their skin is synthetic, not noble, Canevari redeems it in one of his most sensual sculptures, Mamma (Mama), 2000: a gigantic inner tube here squeezed into the doorframe of the chapel that frames a Madonna and Child placed above the altar; the installation is dedicated to the artist’s own birth, which occurred in a Roman elevator. Whether you find the juxtaposition self-aggrandizing or playfully irreverent, Mamma is an affectionate homage to the power of the feminine and its carnal mystery. Chance plays a role in the most recent works, “Monumenti della memorial, Paesaggio” (Monuments of Memory, Landscape), 2019–20, in which motor oil, absorbed by sheets of paper through osmosis, creates dark vistas, sad metaphors now for the emergency in which we are living.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.