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Santiago Cucullu

August 14, 2004 - January 9, 2005

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Created from large sheets of contact paper collaged onto the wall, Santiago Cucullu’s pieces juxtapose images of progressive, historical figures and events drawn from references such as the Italian-Argentine radical Severino di Giovanni, the band Led Zeppelin, and the plays of Samuel Beckett alongside those from his personal experience. For his Hammer Project, Cucullu explores imagery from and about the F.L.A. (Libertarian Federation of Argentina), an anarchist library in his hometown of Buenos Aires.

Organized by James Elaine, curator of Hammer Projects.

About the Exhibition

By Brian Sholis

Milwaukee-based Argentinean artist Santiago Cucullu chooses historically marginalized figures and events (often from his homeland’s anarchist movement) as the subject of his works, which include large wall drawings made of contact paper, watercolors, and sculptures. Cucullu’s references to figures such as anarchist and pamphlet printer Severino di Giovanni, Giovanni’s compatriots Alejandro and Paulino Scarfo, their Spanish forefather Fermin Salvochea, and the historian Osvaldo Bayer inflect a typical chronology of revolutionary fervor and protest, usually traced in straight lines from France, Russia, and Italy to the United States and back to Europe. Like Beyond Geometry, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s current exhibition dedicated to reductive modernist art, which brings South American Concrete Art, Argentine Arte Madí, and Brazilian Neo-Concretism into dialogue with contemporaneous North American and European art movements, Cucullu performs a resuscitation. The artist marries biographical details from these largely forgotten lives with places and people recollected from his own, creating composite visual storyboards that mix references to high and low culture, range across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and freely jumble the contemporary with the historical.

Cucullu’s mural-scale drawing for the Hammer Museum is perhaps his most ambitious and freewheeling contact paper work to date. Its source imagery is almost comically disparate: some comes from the archives of the Federación Libertaria de Argentina (FLA), an anarchist library in Buenos Aires; other parts reference a drawing the artist made while in school (and subsequently lost) that depicted a pair of Doc Martens with the imagined name Dusty Springfield Rhoades written across the top; and still other fragments allude to Dusty Rhodes, a real-life reporter from Springfield, Illinois, whose name the artist came across coincidentally while listening to a radio report about a police officer dismissed from her force. Cucullu presents everything as a tangle of images on a nearly flat picture plane, which can lead almost to the point of visual abstraction—making it hard to see the trees for the forest, so to speak—but also calls to mind pre-Renaissance religious paintings, which often set down multiple narratives in a single space on a single canvas. Continuing the analogy, Cucullu’s multiple works rendering scenes from the life of Severino di Giovanni, who died in a shootout with police in Buenos Aires on February 1, 1931, can be viewed as a secular rendering of the Stations of the Cross. Inasmuch as Cucullu’s mostly forgotten events and minor characters, in being rescued from the dustbin of history, are elevated to the point of being inscribed directly onto the walls of our institutions dedicated to preserving culture, we might even link his art to the tradition of history painting, substituting police shootouts for extravagant feasts and grand battles. More

Brian Sholis is a writer based in Brooklyn.

 

Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and members of the Hammer Circle.

Santiago Cucullu's residency is made possible by a grant from the Nimoy Foundation.

 

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