Enzo Cucchi: the violable has feet on his head

Enzo Cucchi: the violable has feet on his head

In a page from several years ago, essential and precise as a lash, Enzo Cucchi reminded that «sculptures and paintings have legs and eyes, a painting without eyes is an ugly painting, it’s a painting […] that is not good».[1]According to this peculiarity, the work is the detection of the man, a crazy turmoil, in which motions, instincts and conscious winces emerge. In fact, if the eyes light up in watching the creative throbbing, then the legs and feet, meeting the gravity force, allow us to travel new paths. This judgment opens in a manner, as destabilizing as it is astonishing, to the fertile soil of Enzo Cucchi. The Poet and the Magician, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and Luigia Lonardelli, scheduled until September 24 2023, at MAXXI Museum in Rome.

Enzo Cucchi, Photographic portrait, ph. credit Marco Deserto, courtesy l’artista e MAXXI, Roma

The exhibition is a complex structure as dislocation of static and dynamic volumes, heirs to a willingness to break down classical exhibition precepts, a symptom of the artist’s tormented volition of establishing a fair balance between the most varied creative instances. All these are praises towards an exhibition that unites, with invisible mending, works composed in a plastic-robust style as particles floating or resting in space according to an extraordinary dynamic stringency. Certainly, the project is striking as a propulsive spiritual balm to the visitor’s imagination, being a symbolic and mythical socket for the artist, so if exhibitions were to be devised, they should all be done so: as massive journeys, the result of handfuls of fantastic visions.

Enzo Cucchi, La Città Incantata, 1986, oil painting on canvas, iron, 270 x 700 cm, ph. credit Musa, courtesy MAXXI, Roma

Moreover, it is impossible not to think of such an exhibition as a masterpiece of uncertainty and reflection, for which reason it wrests from every viewer a truthful confession in which Cucchi’s work remains secluded from a contemporary era characterized by a vague and swampy clamor. In relation to creative stasis, it must be added that for Cucchi everything transits, as life is displacement and «every object has a precise value that it acquires for the fact of the movement that holds it and makes it be»[2]. Thus in La Città Incantata everything proceeds according to a secret formula that condenses a swirling energy and whose acid colorations challenge the reduction of painting. In this way, for Cucchi, art is confirmed as a movement that disrupts normal immobility: where feet are not for stationing, but rather for thinking and «for defeating, in other words, stability, immobility, dogma, belief».[3] Following the explanatory thread of the exhibition’s title, the real magic lies in the absence of rigid epistemological codes, so as to be a yearning against the melancholic fate of banality, to initiate, by contrast, a chain reaction in opposition to the paralysis of creative faculties.

Enzo Cucchi, Il poeta e il mago, installation view, ph. credit Musa, courtesy MAXXI, Roma

Among the works exhibited, the multitude of papers stands out for its capillary and living fabric, as generated by a mind that grinds a stubborn beauty in continuous busyness. However, regarding this technique, a different display design would have been desirable, because the questionable arrangement, which does not allow the works to be fully appreciated, or because of their small size and excessive quantity, which does not foster the necessary evaluation. Although the papers are shining mental elaborations with a strong narrative character, lexical creations daughters of the power of dreams, the viewer is given access to a creative universe traced by a forgetful and innocent seer. And the blending of such views, between torpor and a state of drowsiness, creates in the viewer faint senses of anguish. Thus, Cucchi becomes an illuminating messenger of latent contents, so that in the works strange spirits take shape, ready to transform themselves into mysterious creatures within rooms marked by orthogonal perspectives full of shadows and upside-down horses, daring visual dives into the naked origin of the most genuine barbarism. From here it is well understood that art for Cucchi exists essentially to follow a question or otherwise to create it, and in line with such considerations come the contents of Edmond Jabès’ The Book of Questions, which can be consulted in the library set up at the entrance to the exhibition hall in which the visitor is asked «are you the same from head to toe?»[4]. Well, the answer received shows a convinced negativity since in humans, as in paintings, there are different and distinct portions: legs, eyes, feet, soul, reason and spirit.

Enzo Cucchi, I Piedi di Caravaggio, 1993, charcoal and resin on canvas paper, 277 x 514 cm, courtesy MAXXI, Roma

It is in this state of bizarre reversal that the intelligent work I Piedi di Caravaggio is placed, where it turns out that man is a strange affair, with a mouth instead of nostrils and a head deformed by feet. This induces one to rethink physical and cognitive metronomics on one’s own account, also doubting the correct order of the motor and cerebral organs. This view likely stems from the realization that it is impossible for our nature not to rely on tools to see the organs, and therefore art can rewrite history, and even human science, which is why Caravaggio’s head is filled with a black, compact matter. For this reason, for Cucchi Caravaggio’s feet are found lying right on top of the head, so what is normally used for stillness and steadiness is fantastically connected to the intellect, the locus of the creation of image and form aimed at transgressing the violable mind. It is precisely here that the artist’s imagination transfixes to the point of convincing us that thought is not a simple act, clear to itself and yet always transient and contrary to every classical prerogative, differing instead sharply from the classical artists throttled by the impossibilities of their brains, never or barely violated. After all, man and history exchange shadows and life; therefore, for a violated creative like Cucchi what is more natural than having his feet on the ground?

Enzo Cucchi, Il poeta e il mago, installation view, ph. credit Musa, courtesy MAXXI, Roma

[1] Enzo Cucchi, curated by Ida Giannelli e Giorgio Verzotti, catalogue of the exhibition at Castello di Rivoli, 1 October – 31 December 1993, Edizioni Charta, 1993, p. 14
[2] Alberto Savinio, Scritti sull’arte e sugli artisti, curated by Elena Pontiggia, Abscondita, 2022, pp. 59-60
[3] Enzo Cucchi, curated by Ida Giannelli e Giorgio Verzotti, catalogue of the exhibition at Castello di Rivoli, 1 October – 31 December 1993, Edizioni Charta, 1993, p. 12
[4] Edmond Jabès, Il libro delle interrogazioni, curated by Alberto Folin, Bompiani, 2015, p. 353


Enzo Cucchi. Il poeta e il mago
curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi e Luigia Lonardelli
17/05/2023 – 24/09/2023
MAXXI, Galleria 4, via Guido Reni, 4A, 00196 Roma


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