Hammer Projects: Roberto Cuoghi

Hammer Projects: Roberto Cuoghi

Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi makes videos, sculpture, paintings, and drawings, in a variety of unconventional media, which expand on the possibilities for transformation and question our understanding of identity. For his most legendary work, the artist, at the time a pierced punk, decided to followed his father’s daily routine of eating, dressing and working, and eventually came to resemble the middle-aged man. He created a monumental sculpture after a tiny bronze statue from the collection of the Louvre, of an Assyrian deity Pazuzu, king of the demons of the wind. He hand-crafted a number of ancient musical instruments, which he then used in a musical accompaniment to his own singing of a lamentation from 612 b.c. invoking the protection of the Assyrian gods. For his Hammer Projects exhibition, his first solo show in the U.S., Cuoghi presents a new series of self-portraits depicting the artist in a variety of personae, as if he had traveled down a different path in life, along with a black Carrara marble sculpture of the demon god Pazuzu.

Organized by Ali Subotnick, Hammer curator.



By Ali Subotnick 

Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi eludes simple explanation. He’s not a painter, but he paints. He’s not a musician, but he has made some highly inventive music (and musical instruments). He’s not a sculptor, but his sculptures captivate. He is an artist who explores the various manifestations of transformation, metamorphosis, hybridity, time, memory, death, and identity. In his own words, he faces “complex ideas iconographically.” Like a Dr. Frankenstein performing mad-science experiments in his basement, Cuoghi reimagines and reinvents himself, the people around him, and iconic characters from history and fiction. 
Cuoghi doesn’t regard his most notorious project as an artwork, but it’s difficult to consider his practice without acknowledging its significance.

In 1997 he began altering his appearance from that of a twenty-something punk artist (piercings and all) into that of a man in his sixties, much like his father (it began with him donning his father’s clothes and then gaining weight to fill out the suits). The dramatic exercise, which would continue until 2005, was a huge success: he soon resembled his father and began to suffer many of the physical ailments common to middle age. Prior to this he had undergone less drastic but still extreme acts of physical transformation. For one, he fashioned a pair of eyeglasses with prisms, which made the world appear upside down. He made a series of disturbing self-portrait drawings while at home sick, wearing the glasses (Il Coccodeista, 1997). Before the eyeglass experiment, he grew out his fingernails for eleven months, achieving considerable length, which greatly diminished his capacity to handle things and write. But these early physical challenges were easily reversible, unlike his time travel into old age. The artist, however, sees this fast-forward as an advantage; he was able to skip past the neurotic years of finding oneself. 


Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; L A Art House Foundation; Kayne Foundation—Ric & Suzanne Kayne and Jenni, Maggie & Saree; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund. 

Hammer Projects: Roberto Cuoghi has also received support from Dakis Joannou and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.