Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jill Krementz covers Maurizio Cattelan at the Gugg

The Solomon Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Maurizio Cattelan: All
November 4, 2011-January 22, 2012
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Maurizio Cattelan
(b. 1960, Padua Italy) is the best-known Italian artist to have emerged internationally in the 1990s. His work has been featured in three editions of the Venice Biennale (1993; 1997; 1999) and in major venues worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1998); and the Tate Gallery, London (1999). Cattelan creates sculptures that mock the art system and even the artist himself, with considerable wit and audacity, Signor Cattelan is represented in this country by the Marian Goodman Gallery. His works sell for millions of dollars.

Curated by Nancy Spector, The Guggenheim has mounted the first retrospective of the hyperrealist's work. Suspended on ropes from the ceiling, en masse, in the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda, are 128 objects representing the artist's entire oeuvre. On view: President John F. Kennedy lying in a coffin, Adolph Hitler on his knees in prayer, and Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite. Added to the mix is the artist's recurring use of taxidermy: eight dogs, three donkeys, three horses, an elephant covered by a sheet, and a despairing squirrel described as "having committed suicide in his grimy kitchen."

There's also a rooster, a cat, two bunnies, a mouse and countless pigeons. You'll spot Pablo Picasso in his famous striped T-shirt and Stephanie Seymour Brandt wearing nothing at all. Pinocchio hangs horizontally, face down. The last time the eponymous Disney character was installed at the Guggenheim he was floating in a pool of water.

The installation looks like a mass gallows. It is a show that will provoke discussion as well as a profound meditation on mortality.

The title of the exhibition is Maurizio Cattelan: All. It could have been aptly titled Dangling Metaphors.

Accompanying the exhibit is a catalogue ($45) and, for the first time,
The Guggenheim has provided a mobile App emceed by filmmaker John Waters.
A playful photograph of the artist Maurizio Cattelan, who is shown lying on his back, arms and legs curled up in the air, and tongue hanging out like a dog panting with excitement.

Hailed simultaneously as a provocateur, prankster, and tragic poet of our times, Cattelan has created some of the most unforgettable images in recent contemporary art.

I never purposely decide to create a scandal, to provoke .... Images sometimes manage to anticipate the future, and maybe that's what scandalizes the public--not to recognize themselves in what they see.

Tourists, 1997

Starting at the top of the rotunda (which is what I did), and working down the ramp--look up and you'll see these pigeons on the rafters.
A far away view of If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There is no One Around, Does it Make Sound? 1998

Taxidermied donkey, television, rope, saddle, and blanket.
Closer view of If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There is no One Around, Does it Make Sound?

One plausible narrative for this ambiguous scene of a donkey with a 1980's era television strapped to its back is that it depicts the transport of a television to a remote, rural area. On another level, the work provokes the image of Christ on a donkey, a prevalent allegory for Cattelan's sober and simple lifestyle. In the artist's vision, the spiritual leader is replaced with a conveyer of media culture. The TV has pride of place and the animal, head bowed, is resigned to its weight.
Now, 2004
A life sized sculpture of John F. Kennedy lying in a coffin
Polyester resin, wax, pigment, human hair, clothing, and coffin

This piece was originally installed in the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. I would urge everyone who subscribes on line to The New Yorker to read Calvin Tomkin's profile of Maurizio Cattelan, "The Prankster" that appeared in the October 4 2004 issue of the magazine. Mr. Tomkins was in Paris with the artist when he was fabricating this controversial work. When Tomkins first saw this piece at the fabricator's studio, JFK's eyes were open and he was wearing shoes.

Tomkins has written a brilliant portrait of a man "variously described as a jokester, a sensationalist, a troublemaker, a conceptual artist, and an innovator of unrivalled originality."
Another view of JFK in a coffin. Below the president, another coffin holds two corpses of the artist himself. Charlie, 2003
Tricycle, steel, varnish, rubber, resin, silicone, human hair, paint, clothing, shoes and electric motor.

This piece represents a three-year-old Cattelan and was originally installed as a remote-controlled tricycle that zipped around the grounds of the 2003 Venice Biennale.
Taxidermied dog, 1997

A profound meditation on mortality forms the core of Cattelan's practice. His recurring use of taxidermy presents a state of apparent life premised on actual death.
This untitled piece depicts a taxidermied horse mounted as if its head were buried in the wall, like a hunting trophy in reverse.

Cattelan's horse appears to have attempted a leap, only to have been thwarted and stuck in the liminal space in-between. His decapitation is suggested, but hidden from view.
Untitled, 2004
Taxidermied donkey

Seated on its hindquarters with splayed back legs, this donkey invites sympathy with its cartoon-like posture and sad-eyed stare. Cattelan has made three donkeys. One carries a TV set and another is pulling an overloaded cart. Seated, this beast of burden, suggests stubborn refusal to be harnessed.
Charlie Don't Surf, 1997
A school desk, a chair, and a child mannequin who sits at the desk with his hands nailed down by two pencils

This is most probably an autobiographical reference. Cattelan has described going to school as "torture."

His mother did housework for other people and his father was a truck driver. At 18, Cattelan left home and for the next few years found work as a janitor, a mailman, and an assistant at the local morgue. He did not attend college or art school.
More pigeons or, as Cattelan calls them, "tourists."
View of installation as I descended the ramp.
Good Versus Evil, 2003
32 hand-painted porcelain figures, wood chessboard, and travel case

Cattelan uses the metaphor of a chessboard to pit good against evil. The porcelain figurines, crafted by famed Italian ceramicists Bertozzi and Casoni include Superman, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and the Virgin Mary pitted against Adolph Hitler, Donatella Versace, and Cruella De Vil.
The porcelain figurines.
Another taxidermied dog, and a bicycle, Cattelan's preferred mode of transport around Manhattan, often referred to as his "girlfriend."
Good Boy, 1998
Taxidermied dog
View of installation.

Look carefully and you'll see a pink rabbit costume that resembles what the artist describes as an oversized penis and testicles. This costume was originally designed by Cattelan for his Parisian dealer Emmanuel Perotin, designed to reflect the Frenchman's playboy persona. Monsieur Perotin appeared at the gallery decked out in this for one month.
Reflection in his eyes, 1997
chromogenic print
face-mounted to acrylic
On the top tier is art critic, Jason Kaufman. Mr. Kaufman is a freelance contributor to The Washington Post and a lecturer for Sotheby's in New York.
Him, 2001
Polyester resin, wax, pigment, human hair, and suit
A close-up look at a miniature, supplicant Adolph Hitler. Neatly dressed in a gray tweed jacket and britches, his hair dutifully combed, his hands clasped in prayer, the evil man presents a model of submission and piety--until you see his face.

The sight of one of history's most reviled figures reduced to the scale of a vulnerable child and posed in an act of contrition sets up a tacit confrontation with the Catholic doctrine of absolution; namely, the God's benevolence to all his children heals truly penitent sinners and returns them to a state of grace--even those guilty of heinous atrocities.

Cattelan has referred to Hitler's image as an instant signifier of evil that haunts the collective consciousness.
A closer look at Betsy chilling out. Her nose and the tips are red from the cold.
Betsy, 2002
Wax, pigment, polyester resin, human hair, clothing and refrigerator

The first work that Cattelan produced for a private collector, originally conceived as an installation for the garden of a London-based collector's country home. Cattelan, reviewing photographs of the family and the site, fixated on an image of an older woman who turned out to be the collector's grandmother. The artist then proposed a wax effigy of the grandmother for display in the family's refrigerator. The family accepted his idea.

By the time the work had been completed the subject had died and the family found comfort in the sculpture, viewing it as a memorial.
There are multiples of these slashed "Z" canvasses suspended in the exhibition. The Z stands for Zorro, the outlaw hero from popular culture immortalized in pulp fiction, Hollywood films, and a 1950's Disney TV series.

Cattelan has made a practice of deliberately disfiguring the art of his "fathers," modern Italian forerunners whose cultural importance and influence is indisputable. One can assume that in this case he has playfully revised the slashed paintings of Lucio Fontana.
A tomb-like, granite epitaph listing all the football matches lost by Team England was first exhibited in a prominent London gallery.
Felix, 2001
Oil on polyvinyl resin and fiberglass

Commissioned for the atrium of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Felix is a 26-foot-tall skeleton of an enormous cat. The artist was inspired by a similar display in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History featuring Sue, a full-scale Tyrannosaurus rex fossil.
Untitled, 1998
Chromogenic print

A portrait of Picasso rendered in a pop-art style.
Frau C., 2007
Polyester resin, paint, human hair, clothing and shoes

Frau, a life-size female figure, was originally installed high in the treetops above Portikus, an art center located on an island in Frankfurt's Main river. Modestly dressed in black with her arms spread in a gesture of blessing, she seemed to hover, as if rising to heaven or descending to earth.
My last kiss, 1997
Taxidermied dog

The taxidermied animals that recur in Cattelan's work further embody his pervasive undercurrent of death, since by their nature they signify the dead even while stimulating the living. This is particularly the case with the artist's dog sculptures--Labradors, German shepherds and Jack Russell terriers, among others, which are curled up on the floor or on the seats of chairs seemingly asleep but which are, as one title makes clear, stone dead.
Untitled, 2009
Canvas and broom

On the ledge, to the right of the broom, you can see a small rectangle. It is called:

Untitled, 2004
Check with ink addition
Christmas '96, 1996
Rubber, model trees, and artificial snow

This is the third of Cattelan's four annual nativity scenes created from 1994 to 1997. It has been described by critics of the artist as loosely interpreting Bosch's syncretic visions. The work comprises a rubber hand with tiny trees growing from its fingertips.
A pair of taxidermied dogs.
As you proceed down the ramp, or up, depending on your route, a closer look at JFK.

This installation as described by Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim's Deputy Director and Chief Curator: "An overtly elegiac scene, an effigy of a serene and barefoot John F. Kennedy, lying in state, a martyr to a shattered American idealism seen from the perspective of a disillusioned present."
A taxidermied horse and one of two upside down New York City policemen. The policemen's posture has been interpreted as a visual parallel to the sense of vulnerability that permeated the country in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Not Afraid of Love, 2000

Styrene, polyester, resin, paint, fabric and hair

This life-size sculpture of a baby elephant hiding beneath a white sheet with holes cut out for its eyes and trunk was created for Cattelan's first solo exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery.
The sculpture strikes an endearing portrayal of a shy young animal and its inescapable allusion to Klu Klux Klan robes.
Love Saves Life, 1995

A donkey, a dog, a cat, a and a rooster depicting the Bremen Town Musicians. In this Brothers Grimm fable, four animals who are no longer useful on their farms, escape from their murderous owners with the dream of becoming musicians.

Cattelan has seized this tale as a utopian vision of a socialist community, the moral being that through friendship, shared commitment and creativity we accomplish our dreams.
Untitled, 1994

Cattelan was eighteen years old in 1978 when the ultra-leftist Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) kidnapped and eventually assassinated the former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro. A photograph of the hostage posed before the group's banner was published in newspapers worldwide and became an icon for a decade rife with conflict in Italy.

With a crudely spray-painted red line, the artist has transformed the Red Brigades' Communist logo into a shooting star.
A general view of the installation. More about the horse, extended arms and Pinocchio later.
Untitled, 2010
Carrara marble, exhibition copy

For the 2010 Carrara International Festival, Cattelan was asked to create a work that could reflect on the relevance of contemporary public monuments. Cattelan's proposal of a statue of Bettino Craxi, Italy's longest serving but disgraced prime minister proved controversial. Undeterred, the artist installed a marble monument featuring Craxi's profile flanked my angels and cherubs.
Cattelan's anarchist streak extends to works that revolve around issues of his Italian identity and the tensions of the country's ever-shifting political landscape. In response to a wave of xenophobic sentiment, he formed a soccer team composed entirely of North African immigrants who played in both outdoor competitions and in exhibition settings on an elongated football (or foosball) table (Stadium, 1991).

Their uniforms bore the emblem Rauss, which recalls the Nazi phrase, Juden raus, or "Jews get out."
Stadium, 1991
A seven-metre (21 feet long) foosball table for 11-a-side play.

To the right you can see one of my favorites: a bunny with monstrously elongated ears suspended in mid-air. Originally called Free Carrot, 1996, the bunny's erect ears seem to register its uncontrollable excitement about the prospect of a "free carrot."
A 12-inch replica of the artist himself sits on top of a big white safe from which burglars once stole tens of millions of lire. The original installation in an Italian gallery in Bergamo displayed two safes, each bearing the cuts and scrapes of the thieves' tools. Cattelan's safes echo the uncomfortable connection between ready-made art and common theft.

A replica of the artist himself gazes down on his own installation. Sharing its name with a character in the 1999 Austin Powers movie, Cattelan's self- portrait seems to represent its procreator's inner voice. An editioned work, each variant is accessorized with exact replicas of current items in the artist's wardrobe.
Detail: The artist gazing down.
A taxidermied cow is transformed into a scooter with two Vespa handles inserted into its head as horns. Hard to believe but this is what Cattelan proposed when invited to participate in the 1997 India Triennial in New Delhi. The strange hybrid--a cow with the features of a bull--combined an animal that Hindus revere with an internationally recognized icon of Italian industrial design.
Less Than Ten Items, 1997

This elongated cart was originally installed, with many others, in a solo exhibition at Castello de Rivoli in Turin. Scattered in various galleries and hallways throughout the museum, the absurdly long carts seemed particularly designed for a shopping spree. They seemed to invite visitors to fill them--perhaps even with the art of the galleries in which they were placed.
'Bidibidobidiboo', 1996

A stuffed squirrel sits slumped after apparently shooting itself at a kitchen table. A tiny revolver lies on the floor. The sink is full of dirty dishes.

This was originally an installation at the Laure Genillard Gallery on Oxford Street in London.
Another general view of the exhibition.
Stephanie , 2003
Wax, pigment, synthetic hair, and metal

Commissioned by the publisher, paper magnate and art collector Peter Brant, this is a rendering of Brant wife, supermodel Stephanie Seymour.

The artist was inspired by the extensive hunting trophies displayed in Brant's home. Ms. Seymour's wax figure attaches to the wall just at the hips so her torso protrudes outward in the manner of a mounted elk's head of some other prize from a big game hunt.

Remarkable as a monument to Seymour and Brandt's good humor, it is also a testament to Cattelan's propensity for biting the hand that feeds him.
An interesting juxtaposition: A Pope hit by a meteor and a squirrel committing suicide in a hotel room.
In 2004, three children appeared to hang from nooses tied to an oak tree in Milan's Piazza XXIV Maggio. The commissioned work was supposed to be on view for several weeks but an impassioned Milanese citizen managed to cut two of them down before he himself fell out of the tree and was rushed to the hospital.

Cattelan viewed the events surrounding the attempted removal of his installation as demonstrating the inherent moral contradictions of a society in which the violence of everyday life often goes unnoticed.
This Untitled piece finds its source in a black-and-white 1977 Francesca Woodman photograph. Ms. Woodman's image is a self-portrait in which she hangs from a doorway, arms outstretched, with her face averted.

Like Cattelan, Woodman frequently used herself in her work. The fact that she committed suicide at the age of 22 may also hold a special resonance for Cattelan who has repeatedly explored this theme in his work.

I am a big fan of Francesca Woodman's photography and am delighted that a retrospective of her work will be shown at the Guggenheim in 2012.
Detail of "Crucified Woman."
Self portrait of the artist with a pigeon.
A view from the ramp just above the main floor.

On the right: Ave Maria, 2007

Three suit-clad arms extend from the wall in a Fascist salute. Making this salute is now a criminal act in Germany and Austria. Strangely, there were no protests when this piece was first shown at the Museum für moderne Kunst in Frankfurt where it first appeared. The title refers to the Catholic prayer Hail Mary.

Center: Two taxidermied horses.
The true history of the work is the history of a difficulty repeating itself. I've also started to think about the difficulty of being Italian, having a heritage, relationships with other artists, being a member of a community with a history.

L.O.V.E. 2010
Cattelan's thirty-six-foot-tall public sculpture featuring an erect middle finger was unveiled in September, 2010 in Milan's Piazza Affari.

Many initially interpreted the piece as a polemic against bankers. When I was at the press preview I heard someone say that this piece should be downtown in Zuccotti Park where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are taking place.
A taxidermied donkey pulling a wagon so laden with parcels that it rises upward-the cart serving as a counterweight to the unnaturally airborne animal. The motorized little boy bangs on a drum, the sound echoing through the Guggenheim.
Thanks to Calvin Tomkins I now realize that "the piece has been described as a political wake-up call, a reminder of imminent catastrophe, with a clear reference to Günther Grass's novel The Tin Drum."
Overview of rotunda.
Poking fun at art history with a giant, Disneyland-type figure of Pablo Picasso. This work was originally installed at New York's Museum of Modern Art, greeting visitors in the lobby.
Hollywood, 2001

For the 2001 Venice Biennale, Cattelan installed the famous Hollywood sign on top of the municipal dump in Palermo, Sicily. It was the first time a work in the Biennale was presented outside of Venice.

The artist chartered a plane to bring some collectors, critics, and curators to the site.
La Nona Ora, 1999
(The Ninth Hour)

One of Cattelan's most provocative works, Pope John Paul II has been crushed by a meteor.

The stricken pope, dressed in formal ecclesiastical gowns lies prostrate on a red carpet. In the original installation at the Kunstalle Basel, the religious leader was surrounded by shards of glass.

The piece was vandalized when exhibited in the pope's native Poland in 2001. The work exists in two versions, one in which the pontiff is dressed in white robes (as shown here) and one in which he wears gold and red vestments.

The artist denies that La Nona Ora is specifically anti-catholic.
Spermini, 1997

"I dealt with corpses, real ones, when I worked in a morgue, and they seemed so deaf, distant. Maybe it's all that job's fault, but when I think of a sculpture, I always imagine it like that, far away, in some way already dead. It has always surprised me when people laugh at my art works: maybe in front of death laughter is a spontaneous reaction."
Close up of the carrot-loving bunny with its elongated ears.
La Rivoluziane siamo noi, (We are the revolution) 2000
Polyester resin, wax, pigment, felt suit, and metal coat rack figure. Owned by the Guggenheim

A slightly miniaturized Cattelan dangling by his collar from a Marcel Breur-designed metal coat rack. The artist is impudently dressed in the signature felt suit of the German mega-artist Joseph Beuys.

This is one of many sculptural vignettes portraying the artist as an Everyman, playing the part of a fool so we don't have to.
Cattelan's sculptures of faceless, homeless people created out of rags and articles of clothing have often been installed in city streets. In one instance, in a group show in Turin, visitors called the police to have the figure removed.

These works depend on a serious reality--the manner in which people see the homeless as inanimate features of the urban environment to be avoided and ignored.
New York Magazine's Art Critic, Jerry Saltz. Saltz wrote in the November 14th column:

"Al is an artist undergoing an intense mortification of the flesh, desecrating his life's work, making this great Maurizio piñata of brilliance and failure in order, maybe to bring about aesthetic resurrection...Part of me wishes they'd just have one a normal retrospective. Yet "All" is an exhibition that repeats the Frankenstein monster's haunted words to its maker: 'You are my creator, but I am your master. Many people will not feel mastered by Cattelan but I am thrilled by what he has done. I stand on the ramps staring into this miasmic cloud of floating art, spellbound, unnerved, pleased, and eager for him to go back on his word. Don't quit."

Saltz is referencing the artist's repeated avowals that this is not his last exhibition.
Two furry rabbits sit on the ground beside the olive tree. Cattelan's rabbits are in fact hybrid creatures having been fitted with glass eyes designed for taxidermied lions.
Untitled, 1998

For Manifesta 2, Cattelan installed a living olive tree in the Casino Luxembourg, its roots secured in a large mound of soil. The living sculpture represented a sample from the natural world inserted into an art exhibition.

The olive tree's Mediterranean origin suggest an autobiographical note in the form of Italian territorialism, literally exporting part of the Italian landscape.
We, 2010

A double self-portrait of the artist in bed with himself. Wearing tailored suits and well-made but scuffed shoes, the similar, but not identical, three-foot likenesses lie on a small wooden bed covered with delicately embroidered bedding.
Working is a Bad Job, 1993

For the 1993 Venice Biennale, Cattelan was afforded a large, centrally located gallery and then appeared to mock the show's entire premise. Rather than create a new piece himself, he rented his space to an advertising firm which installed a large billboard for a new brand of perfume.
A view of the installation.
Artist Paul Smith. Mr. Smith, who used to watch Zorro on TV when he was a little boy, often writes for Art in America under the byline of P.C. Smith. "This exhibition is much more than 'a throw-away gesture' on the part of the artist, which is how the press release describes it."
View of the installation.

By now you should recognize the Vespa cow/bull, the hanging boy, two renderings of Picasso, the big white middle finger, and all the Zorro Zs.
Daddy, Daddy, 2008

This wistful-looking puppet was conceived for a group exhibition at the Guggenheim and originally appeared face down in the elliptical fountain on the ground floor of the museum.

Then, and now, Cattelan is suggesting that the hapless Disney character has plummeted to his death from the spiraling ramps above, the victim of foul play, suicide, or an accident.

Pinocchio, the wooden toy who yearns to be a real boy is suffused with the artist's anxiety over being accepted as a real artist. The title implies a plea for approval and protection that appears to have gone unanswered.
Daddy, Daddy, 2008
Original installation at the Guggenheim was from October 24, 2008 -- January 7, 2009.
Ground floor of the Guggenheim.

Not an installation. Jerry Saltz getting a better view from the ground up. On a warmer day Mr. Saltz night have been floating face up in that pool.
For the first time, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has produced a mobile App to accompany an exhibition. The app is called Maurizio Cattelan: All.
The App features "Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Footage of the Unique Installation and More Than 30 Videos with Artists, Critics, Curators, Gallerists, Conservators, and Engineers." Exhibition curator Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, examines Cattelan's oeuvre.
Filmmaker John Waters emcees the App.
Mr. Waters (Pink Flamingos, Polyester, and Hairspray) has been called "The Pope of Trash," a title he admits to "milking for years." I photographed Mr. Waters in his Manhattan apartment.

If having me as host seems a little bit unorthodox, well, it's an unorthodox show.
Curator Massimiliano Gioni talks about "Charley." Working with Maurizio.
The exhibition catalogue authored by Nancy Spector, $45.
Frank and Jamie, 2002
Mini-Me, 1999
We, 2010
Errotin, le vrai lapin, 1995
Maquettes for the Guggenheim show.
Front of T-shirt. Back of T-shirt.
Canvas tote bags.
Postcards, $1.75 each.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.