Emily Dubovoy is a 19-year-old hopefully-not-starving art student. Originating from Chicago, she currently resides in Manhattan where she studies art management and direction at New York University. Emily runs an experiential blog where she explores her affinity for creating images or emotions from her sensory experiences. This spring, she is interning at PULSE Contemporary Art Fair. While not an artist in the typical sense of the word, Emily works to understand art, its purpose, and how to use it to create an experience rather than a product.
Walking into the Guggenheim Museum located in Manhattan’s famous “Museum Row” on the upper east side, I came face to face with a horse suspended in mid-air via harness. Startled, I mistook the shape for being living. It was actually taxidermied. “Someone did a thorough job,” I thought inwardly, embarrassed at how my heart was beating quickly. Suddenly, the beating of a toy drum directed my attention upward. Slightly up higher, I saw an automated sculpture of a young boy beating a drum on his lap sporadically. Cocking my head up, I gasped in awe at the seemingly infinite web of what at first glance seemed like unstrategized clutter. From the ground, unidentified images of people, animals, paintings and text passively returned the stare I was exuding. First I was overwhelmed, but then I couldn’t look away. This massive installation seemed to be hanging lifelessly reminiscent of the gallows.
This suspended exhibition titled All is an homage to the works of Italian visual artist, Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960 in Padova, Italy). Best known for his satirical sculptures, Cattelan has come to be known as a prankster and hooligan in the art world. He has been known to get his edge from pushing people’s buttons through his controversial, yet insightful visual installations which he courageously and shamelessly exhibits. In one section of All, close examination of one of the many taxidermied figures reveals a golden retriever with a small plastic sign hung around its neck. The words “Torno Subito,” which translates to “Be Back Soon” is displayed proudly. Cattelan’s erratic behavior and irreverence for dealers, along with frequenting making public appearances clad in jeans and sneakers, have given Cattelan his reputation in the art world.
The fodder for his creative cannon stems from religion, popular culture, history, contemporary society, the nuances of human nature, and almost anything else that is a sign of the times. His sculptures fall under the hyperrealistic category of contemporary art. His sculptures focus on details of his subjects to the point of looking almost like a 3D photograph. However realistic his work may be, his subjects are cartoonish. His work makes you look at a dog or a woman and then imagine having a conversation with the dog and taking the woman out for a walk. It is through this exaggeration and comedic spin on reality that distinguishes hyperrealists, but it is Cattelan’s choice of contemporary subjects that put a twist on his works. His most notable work is La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), which depicts the Pope John Paul II being struck down by a meteorite (which you can imagine stirred up much controversy in his native Italy). Suspended among the Pope, Pinocchio, the aforementioned horse (Novecento), Hitler as a kneeling school boy, an upside-down policeman, and neon lights, essentially everything the artist has created since 1989 is displayed in the rotunda of the Guggenheim. In a world where Cattelan sees the art scene, and everything else for that matter as being taken too seriously and blown out of proportion, his life’s work is culminated and hung to create a careless effect almost out of spite.
I walked up the distinctive circular walkway of the museum stopping at exhibits in galleries along the way. From the ground of the Guggenheim, the helical spiral and skylight that you see when glancing upward are just as aesthetically pleasing as the white, curled ribbon appearance from the street designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 30’s. As I did so, each level higher I ventured, a new image or sculpture came to my attention. While the exhibit is an art piece in and of itself, we must remember that it is comprised of separate works of Cattelan that have been on display in different settings and in different contexts prior to this latest installation. Cattelan has a method to his madness which was refreshing to see in a controlled museum setting. As a youth in Padua, Cattelan, the son of a cleaning lady and a truck driver, his home life was shrouded in money problems and feelings of inadequacy. His distaste for school and menial work paired with the instability of the Italian government instilled a mistrust of figures of authority in a number of institutions. I felt his intentional rebelling and “fuck you” to society with each step up.
I continued finding new aspects of his work as different angles of the exhibit highlighted different works. From the main level, you could not see many of the paintings and sculptures at eye level. The galleries of the Guggenheim and All hanging in the negative space of the museum itself made me feel surrounded in all ways by art. The artist made me laugh, fear, and think as I walked up not once, but three times to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. The exhibit is going to be displayed at the Guggenheim until January 22nd, but the sculptures encompassed in it will be available separately for viewing in the future. The prospects of new works for Cattelan are unlikely, as this exhibit was what he described as his retirement from art. Maurizio Cattelan works in New York and Milan. He is currently represented by Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.
Image Source: BKRW