“L’Oeuvre au Noir”, critic text by Stefania Portinari, 2011, eng

“There always comes a moment when one has no option but to take a risk,” wrote José Saramago in Blindness: Andrea Morucchio is – to put it like AC/DC – “Back in Black”. Back in his city with a solo show at Ca’ Pesaro, for which he has assembled an anthological overview of sculptural works accompanied by a video representing a room of torture. These fetish-presences – ascetic and essential – move toward a ground zero of vision and sum up the research driving the artist’s recent forms in monochrome black. He’s back. After photography, after journeys to places where black is the brilliant background – deep and unknown – present in the distinct essence of the Cuban shots or those of mysterious Nepal. After the contamination of history with the urgency of contemporary politics, Morucchio returns to his practice of sculpture and installation, that is, between performance and presence, developed over the past ten years. An opaque and seductive black; polished; the almost medieval spirit of many of the works borders on a menacingly defiant appearance and a fragility declared through the glaringly luminescent specificity of the medium – glass.

The perfect definition of these extreme forms and the precision in the manipulation and placement of the materials give origin to an ascetic and subversive dialogue, to a dark monologue in which ascents and sacrifices are counterpart to a spirituality evoking cosmic and combative energy and leading back to memories of art and humanity, akin to a Ciclo della protesta.* The composite whole of this recent development, entirely toned black, makes itself both chivalrous quest and heretic self-portrait, like the destiny of the protagonist of Marguerite Yourcenar’s The Abyss.** The alchemic stabilizing and the contrast of materials – glass and iron, light and photography – create visual clashes aimed at provoking an aware mental process, like a vibrating shock of immaterial dynamism transmitted by the works arranged in the room.

“Sculpture is volume, base, height, depth” declared the Manifesto tecnico dello spazialismo (1951), of which Berto Morucchio was one of the signatories: a space-time detachment, a sense of deceptive and artificial perception of reality and a strong concentration of magnetic forces dominate the variety of forms of Back in Black, and yet, the sculptural nature of the works is not denied. Rather, through the creation of a dialogue they become part of actions, like frames of a film, and are inflected like pieces of a cadavre esquis stemming from a recent course of philosophical inspiration.

Andrea Morucchio arranges his installations for Ca’ Pesaro around a focal point aimed to create a gash in perception, jeopardizing the unstable equilibrium of visual sensations, highlighting the complexity of vision, and offering the portrait of a human condition. Analogous to the artist’s previous exhibitions in museum contexts, he challenges the site of preservation while exalting the role of eternal mementum. In works such as Le Nostre Idee Vinceranno (2002), Laudes Regiae (2007), and B[æ]d Time – a bed of un-soft pain upon which one cannot rest – he deals with reminiscence overshadowed by a sense of mystery, anxiety and violence. Cross Shoots is a schismatic Latin cross which, contrary to the claims of religious monocracy, can break down into unity and disunity, and is inclined, ready for the rupture and for the protest. The double torso of the Canovian wrestler Damòsseno, whose face we do not see, is stricken with points de repère. Used to map the transfer onto marble, they appear as the wounds of Saint Sebastian, and this twofold mirror image makes him a Dioskouri doppelganger. Identity continues to be denied in Celate: anonymous decapitated presences, cryptic phantasmic warriors drawn from a noble matrix: the 16th century sparrow’s-beak armet – also known as Attila’s helmet – conserved in the Doge’s palace in Venice (already staged in red at the Convento dei SS. Cosma e Damiano). The bundle of lance or javelin-like sandblasted poles bound together by strips of inner tubes, Accumulo, presents a contrast between transformed materials, forged by heat, coming close to an object of design. Meanwhile, in Blade, glass spikes are supported, yet also contained: Holy Grail and pointed Maiastre. Tools with lethal outlines exhibited in the delicate and unique combination of nuances, they are akin to the wedges of molded glass, Enlightenments, which break through iron, and to the site-specific installation structures of Percer-Voir, insofar as illumination. Morucchio demonstrates strength and skill in the video Rivoluzioni, where he swivels a polished rod of glass like a magic tournament sword, alluding to the cosmogonic spinning of the planets. The rod cyclically shatters, giving way to an eternal return, to a renewal that comes through the liberation of energy. This is accompanied by the noise which, like in Bruce Nauman’s Thinking of Me, produces a short circuit between space, reality and the repeating, monotone, amplified voices coming from the unconscious and crossing unknown spaces.

If in his photographs it was light and shadow which built up the images, there where the contrasts of color become leaps into momentary consciousness – forever frozen – and where night is palpable in the deep, dark, often absolute scenic backgrounds, now, in Back in Black, the subjects are sculptures searching for the monochrome in order to induce the concentration of the gaze. This also occurs in Eidetic Bush (2003), produced during a residency in Tasmania, where burnt trees are revived by the grip of a plaster spiral, which is also the moved embrace afflicted by the loss of the woods and heinous colonial politics.

The opalescence of black, leit motiv and secret background, leads to a use of glass as a sculptural element, retaliation and call to the bridge between the major and the minor arts, within the crease of a Venetian tradition which has Carlo Scarpa’s dark glass creations climax. These prototypes, so specific that they were technically impossible to reproduce, occupied an entire room of the 1940 Biennale. Now they are the lifeblood of a generation of young Venetian artists, creators of fascinating expressions which suggest the becoming of natural forms. Morucchio’s vitreous essences are aggressive spiked tools, yet they are overwhelmed by their fragile nature and supported by structures which imprison and contain them, restraining them almost as if to offer a reason for escape. They express the dynamism of the encounter-clash between dualistic forces of materials, or rather, as Matthew Barney said of his own practice, indicating that he does nothing more than reinterpret “the vital process which, in every one of us, necessarily leads to a transformation”, explaining “the way in which a form fights to find its own definition”.

Morucchio’s Ca’ Pesaro room wishes to become an environment, a space of perception where emotion survives whilst the works seem to deny the tactility of the different elements. They become untouchable in a delicate equilibrium between their multiple natures – a contradictory linguistic weapon. Black, which throughout history has interpreted so many shades of existence, from the act of creation to mourning to madness, in its dignity and depth – so difficult to obtain as in the velvets of Renaissance noblemen – is the absence of color. Pure signifying form, infernal color, but also magical, generating protean chaos from which everything originates, like the transformation of state in which liberation of the spirit occurs and which has always been loved by artists for its irreversible determination, from the prehistoric cave drawings to the razings of Malevic. In one of his Sentences on Conceptual Art, Sol Lewitt stated that conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists, reaching conclusions that logic cannot grasp: irrational judgments lead to new experiences. Perhaps this is also true for Andrea Morucchio.

* In reference to Emilio Vedova’s Ciclo della protesta, 1954.
** The original French title of Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel is L’Oeuvre au noir, 1968.