The Italian painter-sculptor-printmaker Mimmo Paladino is one of several contemporary European artists who revived an interest in expressionist imagery in the 1980s. His paintings suggest religious themes and a knowledge of Early Christian art, although their specific iconography is unidentifiable. Religious allusion is more indirect in his sculpture which in style and feeling evokes figures from Etruscan art and ancient Greek mythology. This reference to ancient times is enhanced by the weathered surfaces Paladino creates. In the present work, a half-length male torso, scratch marks are left on the carved limestone, and a large area of the figure's chest is roughly chiseled away imitating the effect of long term erosion. Some of the limestone is reattached by encaustic, a method invented by the ancient Greeks, whereby wax (usually mixed with pigment) is affixed to a surface by heat.
In this sculpture, the elongated stylization of the male torso and arms is particularly reminiscent of Etruscan sculpture. Two short pipes protrude from his mouth - perhaps a reference to the double aulos (oboe) associated with Dionysian revelry. The figure beckons us with outstretched arms, but the invitation is more macabre than welcoming. Ghostly white, with vacant eyes, this figure is disturbing and surreal, approaching us as if in a trance. The outward calm projected by the front view is shattered by the reverse side on which violent slash marks, painted red, are cut into the limestone, suggesting the bloodied wounds inflicted by flagellation.
[Sperone Westwater, New York, 1985–86; sold to MMA]
New York. Sperone Westwater. "Mimmo Paladino," April 27–June 8, 1985, unnum. brochure.
Vivien Raynor. "Art: Hans Haacke Show at John Weber Gallery." New York Times (May 17, 1985), p. C21.