New York

Lucio Pozzi

John Weber Gallery

For one who holds to terms like artist and style, the work of Lucio Pozzi is hard to consume. This is intended: Pozzi uses many many forms, all equally, in order to confound our sense of relative value. The question is, what criteria is offered instead?

In the show one came upon cartoons, pointillist watercolors, constructivist wood pieces, modernist paintings, paintings with photographs, etc. I say “pointillist” and “constructivist” impressionistically: here they are not terms to be reinscribed (nor, thank God, happy quotes that make for bland synthesis). “I don’t mix incompatibles,” Pozzi says, “I just juxtapose them.”

Here the question of address arises. The work is disposed to the initiate, the patron, the plain joe—all at once; no hierarchy is insinuated. Pozzi “juxtaposes” classes and consciousnesses in a way that is less Marxian than Utopian. He produces work by means of “mechanisms” which serve as his givens; he ascribes no transcendent values. They are not “logics” derived from the materials, nor signatures imposed upon them. One cannot resort to a narrow notion of structure or style and respect the incongruity of the work.

What does this imply? A certain effacement of the artist, it would seem, as a producer perhaps (the work is very wary of its commodity status). But also, I fear, as an individual engaged in conflict with an institution. If so, this is problematic, and Pozzi, no doubt, intends it to be.

The work is protean, and this makes it hard to say whether Pozzi is the heir to the likes of Picasso, the Dadaists and Surrealists, and Johns, or whether he is to be seen as a “post-Modernist.” I think the former is the case. By and large, the “post-Modernists” take modernism at its formalist face value and thus seal an image of it that is rigidly dogmatic. Pozzi advocates nothing of the sort. And yet I wonder if the anxiety about the artist-subject that is manifest here is not related to the anxiety about “reification” that so besets the “post-Modernists.”

The work is defensive even as it is expansive. Now, to Pozzi, the face of the Romantic object-maker is the mask of the producer of cultural goods; this he calls an “operational dilemma,” one that, if not dismissed, would deny the will to work. Again I wonder: might not such a dismissal end as a deprivation? Doesn’t it set limits on what may be wrested from contradictions of the sort?

The merit of Pozzi’s work is that it provokes such questions. Better that than bland answers to non-problems.

The freedom, or license, here is obvious; but it seems that it is Pozzi’s—or ours—only, insofar as it is exemplary. Pozzi puts the term “Lucio Pozzi, artist” in doubt; and yet, as no mode or material is definitive, I am not sure there is any other referent. The less-aware will dismiss the work as mere autobiographical script. To do so, however, is to admit how greatly Pozzi extends such terms, terms like artist and style. But perhaps he asks too much of us; given our thought, it is impossible to forego entirely the need for origins and referents.

The line between the effacement of the subject and the effacement of all but the subject is fine here indeed. The two, however, are alike in this: they hold the institutional in check. Which is to say that they risk the loss of the historical. There is a Utopianism to Pozzi that predisposes him to such a risk. However, it seems to me that inasmuch as one engages in cultural activity, one also engages in a redemptive activity, and this cannot be dismissed lightly.

Hal Foster