New York

Giulio Paolini

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

Giulio Paolini’s work is of various kinds: literalist drawings with the middles torn out and other permutations of the same idea; a drawing made of graph paper with a hand holding a pen superimposed on it and made out of the same kind of paper; a self-portrait the title of which named objects—a bust of Heraclitus among them—the painting was said to contain but didn’t. The common theme can only be Paolini, whose privileged subjectivity seems meant to unite the disparate elements of physical perception and associated meaning he presents. The most elaborate work in the show confirms this. It consists of the recorded voices—taken from sound tracks—of movie stars playing historical figures and pictures of the figures on music stands representing them by surviving artifacts and by film actors. Paolini proposes this juxtaposition as a way to overcome what he calls the incongruity of classical and modern theatricality. I don’t think he’s prepared to admit how serious humor actually is.

––Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe