Enzo Cucchi - 80s New York Friday, December 17, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Enzo Cucchi, arguably one of Italy’s most renowned contemporary artists, is known for his rejection of the conceptual art movement prominent at the height of his career in favor of a more expressive and figurative style. Cucchi operated at the forefront of the Transavanguardia ("beyond avant-garde") movement in the 1970s and 80s, which attempted to overturn the prevailing minimalist aesthetic and reintroduce symbolism and emotion into painting. The present lot is a prime example of the principles of Transavanguardia, particularly in its unusually thick brushstrokes, noticeably rough surface texture and stark color scheme.
    Cucchi’s works often portray barren, post-apocalyptic landscapes, and the present lot is no exception. The simple color scheme of black and white accented with bright yellow is simultaneously stark and unexpectedly rich. The painting also incorporates symbols into the landscape—for example, the gun painted on this canvas blends into the rest of the painting, and would be nearly indistinguishable from the hills around it if not for its yellow hue. Perhaps Cucchi means to comment on the interplay of society and nature and how they cannot fully meld together. There is a sort of dialogue between the material culture humans created and the organic world that it can never quite imitate or surpass.
    Cucchi also plays with sculptural elements in this work by placing another yellow-handled gun, this one ceramic, on the wall next to the canvas. Curiously, the ceramic gun is pointed at the canvas, and appears to have shot the painted gun, which lies forlornly on its side as if playing dead. The title of the painting, Fucile, translates to "gun," and the viewer is left wondering to which gun it refers—the two-dimensional one or its three-dimensional assassin. In this way, Fucile is a painting of dichotomies—black and white versus color, flat versus three-dimensional, nature versus man-made weapon, attacker versus victim. However, Cucchi’s work represents suggestions rather than conclusions. He outlines relationships between pictorial elements and leaves the viewer to decipher their meanings on an individual basis.
    For a painting that treats such broad themes, Fucile is surprisingly personal and subjective. The emphasis is taken off the artist, defying the notion that there is one "right way" to understand a painting, and one correct interpretation of the artist’s intentions. Thus, with this canvas, Cucchi cements himself as one of the pivotal painters of the 1980s, a master of interweaving intensely symbolic imagery while still rendering himself nearly anonymous.



Oil on canvas with glazed ceramic gun.
Canvas: 95 x 100 in. (241.3 x 254 cm); gun: 4 1/4 x 15 x 2 1/2 in. (10.8 x 38.1 x 6.4 cm).
Signed, titled and dated "Enzo Cucchi, Fucile, 1982" on the reverse of the canvas.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $86,500


17 December 2010
New York