‘Even in a closed circuit you always have a bit of perspective in front of you.’
For his first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth and first New York City solo presentation in nearly a decade, Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi will populate the ground floor of the gallery’s 22nd Street building with an entirely new body of work. One of the most celebrated, yet enigmatic, artists of his generation, Cuoghi is known for an exacting, almost obsessive, research- and process-driven practice that spans the full spectrum of styles and genres.
Deliberately mixing artistic genres, styles and subjects, ‘Pepsis’ is Cuoghi’s attempt to free himself from his own stylistic and artistic assumptions and experiences, his cultural imprint. In this sense, it is the next step for the artist in his continuous effort to challenge his own practice. A thesis that has become a working method, ‘Pepsis’ is the application of a troubling idea that has always gone hand in hand with Cuoghi’s mutable work, culminating here in a highly varied and emotionally charged presentation of different series and bodies of work. Cuoghi has deliberately chosen to think of his work as an exercise in stylization, reproducing the ‘already seen’ in accordance with reassuring canons that seem to be warning us of a leveled and polished future.
*Pepsis is a Greek word linked to the concept of digestion. It is also the scientific name of a parasitoid wasp that utilizes another insect as a source of nourishment for its young, manipulating its behavior until the death of the host, which in the meantime has been devoured from within by the Pepsis larva. Observing this phenomenon, Charles Darwin wrote that he no longer had faith in the beneficent and omnipotent God he had been brought up to believe in.
Cuoghi uses the term ‘stylization’ to embody the ancient primordial force of learning by imitation, allowing knowledge and skills to be passed on, while avoiding failure. It is better to remake than to create something that might not be successful. Stylizing signifies simplifying and lightening, which in turn means impoverishing in order to conserve and communicate something that becomes a model of reference. The new, unlimited availability of models to guide our aspirations orients our growth, development and socialization. Cuoghi believes that this ultimately condemns us to digest and repeat inauthentic formulas. No one is exempt from this ever-increasing number of references that dull our imagination, not just on an aesthetic level, but also hinder the very idea of innovation at its origin. In ‘Pepsis,’ Cuoghi interrogates this hypothesis and its consequences, that ultimately the very idea of solution is being replaced by stylized forms of solution.
‘I paint against my intentions. That is, if something of mine appears, I go over it. My way of painting can be defined only through the form it takes each time. I’m a painter without a mindset.’
Roberto Cuoghi was born in Modena, Italy in 1973, and lives and works in Milan. Cuoghi’s practice is unique: he has no direct influences, and his work doesn’t fit comfortably within any genre of art. His diverse series of works over the past two decades are united by a preoccupation...
On view now through 1 April 2023 at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street.
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