Cookie Mueller and Vittorio Scarpati

Studio Voltaire
1a Nelsons Row
September 9–November 12

Vittorio Scarpati, Putti’s Pudding (detail), 1989, ink on paper, 8 x 5".

Pink daylight filters through the windows of this former chapel. At its center is a small white box full of drawings. Walking into the space to view these works feels like you’re about to do something very private, such as confess your sins or take in a peep show.

This is the first time that Italian artist Vittorio Scarpati’s final project, Putti’s Pudding, 1989, has been shown outside the US. Although included in Nan Goldin’s exhibition “Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing,” at New York’s Artists Space in 1989, Putti’s Pudding was originally conceived as a book. Working in collaboration with his wife, Cookie Mueller, the influential writer and actress, Scarpati created hundreds of felt-tip works on notepad paper—populated by knights, angels, fools, and beasts—some in black ink but most in lurid color, which narrate the grueling experience of living with AIDS in the 1980s (both died of the disease in 1989). Though Mueller and Scarpati’s collaboration is rife with fear and uncertainty, an ethereal kind of joyousness and strength manage to shine through.

Three of Mueller’s texts have been printed in an accompanying booklet. Her intimate and loving words interact beautifully with Scarpati’s powerful illustrations. Both artists died far too soon, but their generous efforts are eternal, infused with a “spiritual stamina [that] rises above all the woe,” as Mueller once wrote.

Philomena Epps