Enzo Cucchi, Mirare (Aiming), 2016, bronze, steel cable, 20 7/8 × 10 1/4 × 7 1/2".

Enzo Cucchi, Mirare (Aiming), 2016, bronze, steel cable, 20 7/8 × 10 1/4 × 7 1/2".

Enzo Cucchi

Enzo Cucchi, Mirare (Aiming), 2016, bronze, steel cable, 20 7/8 × 10 1/4 × 7 1/2".

Despite his long involvement in the painting-oriented movement Transavanguardia, Enzo Cucchi has recently focused on sculpture and drawing (for which he has always shown a predilection), using painting primarily as commentary on these two other mediums. This recent show at ZERO confirmed this preference; the most extraordinary works were three sculptures—housed within the gallery’s interior spaces and outside the entrance—and it does not seem an exaggeration to say “extraordinary,” as Cucchi’s poetic inspiration never fails to surprise.

When entering the courtyard space, viewers saw a bronze disk, installed very high up on the corner wall next to the entrance, with a hole at the center; exiting, they saw, instead, a monkey-like face, its mouth agape, its paws on its ears. This figure borders on the comic-grotesque described by Mikhail Bakhtin (Cucchi is clearly designating that the “back” of the disk shows the anus). The creature’s grimace is accentuated by the work’s elevated suspension, so that its features cannot be easily perceived. The work is titled America and, like all the other pieces in the show, is dated 2016.

In the first room, another sculpture, Mirare (Aiming), was suspended along a steel cable, placed diagonally at eye level. The cable pierced the piece from end to end, like the trajectory of a bullet. Seen from the front, the block of bronze proved to be a human face with a nose and two large holes roughly carved into the material to represent eyes; the cable passed through another hole, representing the mouth. Seen from the side, the nose looked enormous, but the head appeared like an oblong, almost shapeless block, surmounted by a strange rectangular excrescence embossed with a small image of an erect penis. The room also contained a single painting: a full-length portrait of a boy with his legs astride, executed on two superimposed sheets of aluminum (Bimbetto acceleratore [Little Boy Accelerator]). In the small adjacent room across from the gallery’s offices were two small paintings: a frescoed portrait of a woman and an image of a bird, both in delicate colors that lent a graceful note to an otherwise rather aggressive visual setting.

Indeed, the work in the third room was the most assertive, though more in terms of placement than subject. A large, thick bronze surface spanned the floor and the wall, fusing into the latter. The profile of the mass suggested the curved spine of a body that remained unseen apart from a long, pointed, and unnatural nose. The face is captured in profile, while the individual kneels down to observe a second small figure that it apparently holds in its arms. Coming closer, viewers instead discovered the second small figure to be an appendage of the figure’s left arm. In place of the hand is the round head of a bird. The beak of the latter is pointed back toward the large face, as if to suggest an exchange of glances between two archaic masks. Their private dialogue does not involve the viewer, and carved on the arm are the words MERDA MIA (my shit)—also the work’s title—revealing a patent and perhaps self-satisfied solipsism. Paradoxically, as in all of Cucchi’s work, it is precisely this closing off from the other that makes his practice utterly fascinating, for it elicits an enquiring glance and the viewer’s desire to unwind the enigma, to reveal the mystery.

In the same room, Il grande Carro (The Big Dipper) updated the large, wall-size installation format—which Cucchi calls a “cathedral of drawing”—that has become the artist’s preferred mode of exhibiting his works in this medium. This time the drawings were inserted into the spaces between nine pieces of mosquito netting that hung from the ceiling, creating an immaterial stage set where the paper shifted and moved, inhabited by human and animal bodies that seemed to transform, merging into one another. Cucchi’s somewhat oneiric images often recall the fantastic creatures that adorn Romanesque churches. It is no accident that soon after this show opened, the artist installed a continuation at a church in the Lombard city of Piacenza. There, Cucchi exhibited two sculptures of imaginary animals, flattened to become almost two-dimensional, like two figures depicted on a mysterious coat of arms. With a gesture of humility, he simply placed them on the floor of the church, while two small wooden elements were hung high up, almost invisible.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.