Gianni Caravaggio

Galleria Francesca Kaufmann/Studio Nike

In these two simultaneous shows, the thirty-six-year-old artist Gianni Caravaggio reorganized his entire body of work from the past ten years. Most of the pieces at Galleria Kaufmann were being shown for the first time, while Nike featured previously exhibited works; all in all, there were a dozen. In Melancolia, ovvero trasparente (Melancholy, or Transparent), 1995, a photograph on transparent acetate, the then-twenty-six-year-old artist’s face is shown leaning against the hand of an elderly person, as if the two belonged to the same body. Sugar no sugar molecule, 2002, is a parallelepiped made up of cubes of different dimensions and different materials—marble, polystyrene, and sugar. The sugar cube is the initial module, the “molecule” from which the whole is multiplied, in a potentially infinite development. In My Brain and Thought, 2004, the interior of a square white freezer is filled with spheres of ice, stuck together by the cold but susceptible to change as soon as the conditions of refrigeration are modified (this being a metaphor for the mind); meanwhile, a nearby aluminum cast of the empty space between the ice “molecules” represents thought—completed, solid, and expressed in the world. Finally, in La visione di una stella proiettata verso la sua origine (Vision of a Star Cast Toward Its Origins), 2004, a tapered bronze telescope-like form, six and a half feet long, rests on the floor; inside it, a round section of white aluminum brings to mind the luminescence of a distant star, while the energy-charged halo that fills the circular space between the aluminum and the “telescope” is made of chocolate.

These works were some of the most successful in the show, and as different as they may seem from one another in form, they suggest the coherence of the artist’s concerns: Like the rest of his oeuvre, these pieces reflect a quest for origins. In Caravaggio’s hands, this pursuit involves both space and time—on various levels, both conceptual and perceptual. For example, in Vision of a Star, time is celestial and, significantly, measured in light-years, a spatiotemporal dimension. But in Melancholy, the temporal dimension is human. Space is contemporaneously a tangible and an abstract measure in Sugar, while in My Brain the positive-negative of mind and thought concretize, in a solid space, the metaphor of thinking and the object of thought.

All this amounts to a conceptual exploration with somewhat hermetic, formally impeccable results, as in so much contemporary Italian art. But both beyond and before this series of metaphors for space and time there is another theme, even more innate, so to speak, and more hidden: Caravaggio—and what a name to live up to!—always deals with metaphors for becoming. Already contained in concepts of space and time, becoming implies an idea of direction, of origin and destination but also of construction and voyage. And so all these works take on further coherence; a telescope used to view the light of a star comes into close relation to an elderly hand against a young face, just as a precise geometric module is seen to be connected to the ephemeral variability of a metaphor for the brain.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.