New York

Lucio Pozzi

John Weber Gallery

An article on Lucio Pozzi by Tiffany Bell (Artforum, Dec. ’78) begins with a quotation from Hegel that has apparently been important to Pozzi. In it Hegel argues that art, as a profound and certain purveyor of truth, is dead, and that we will continue to be interested in art to the extent that we are pleased by discovering all its devices of illusion. Hegel calls for a “science of art,” by which he means a skepticism that will replace the awe cathedrals struck in medieval men. Pozzi, taking Hegel’s suggestion as an imperative, has thought of his own highly reduced art as just such a science, rather than as picture-making. At one point he called his paintings “paint-works,” as if to deny the central thing about them, that they were made of paint—to say that they were something larger than paintings, “works” of some kind, which only incidentally involved paint. Central in Pozzi’s mind were the placement of pictures in a room, the relationships between different pictures, and the invisible ideas of order from which he proceeded, systematically, to make his works. In this he has been a true conceptualist—one who attempts to diminish everything that is physical about a work of art.

In light of this, Pozzi’s current show is anomalous and surprising, for he has put on display 20 or so very traditional watercolor landscapes of exotic places, mostly Caribbean islands. These diminutive pictures, never larger than 6 by 6 inches, are done in a bright, colorful, sometimes pointillist style, and show beaches, jungle, palm trees, and an occasional fort. If only for these subjects, Pozzi’s pictures invite an unfair comparison with the work of David Hockney, to whom tropical flora has also meant a lot; at his best, Pozzi is quite a competent, but very uninspired landscapist. Of course, his watercolors are occasional works—they were done quickly and casually while traveling—and they probably do not have the importance to Pozzi that a large scale abstract work would. Certainly, they have no “conceptual” intention that I can see at all.

What is more interesting than these pictures as pictures is the fact that they have been put on the wall by Pozzi. It is as if, after years of hardheaded, “scientific” artmaking, and a recent semi-retrospective of his conceptual work, Pozzi means to show that he can be and has really always been (in his spare time) a regular painter of pictures. This need to bring a conceptual career back down to earth is not only touching, but is also indicative of the state of things in art. For the kind of work Pozzi has done for most of his career, and the kind of theory he has accompanied it with, is as much dogmatic as esthetic in intent. (One might say that Pozzi, and artists like him, found dogma itself to be esthetic.) His work and thinking proceed from, and require, a milieu in which different kinds of dogma compete strenuously. More than by anything else the present time in American art is characterized by the collapse of avant-gardist argument. Much of the best art has involved a revival of old styles; much of the weakest is simply nostalgic. It is no accident that Pozzi should now be bringing his watercolors out of the closet, though it would have seemed thoroughly incongruous for him to do so a few years back.

Leo Rubinfien