1998 (cast 2001)
Mimmo Paladino’s bronze Cloven Viscount is a numinous presence in the gardens of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The hieratic pose, with arms lowered and straight, the palms outward, the planar ‘aura’ that surrounds the figure, gives the Viscount the look of an Ecce Homo of Christ. Yet there is no pathos, nor is it even a Christian image. Its anatomy is deprived of gender and uninflected by muscle or movement. The face is a mask, with holes like the hollow eyes of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon. The body is a mask—a convex cuirass that conceals a void behind. The title of the work alludes to the celebrated 1952 novel by Italo Calvino, but Calvino’s Manichean division between right and left, good and evil, is missing (Calvino’s Viscount Medardo is split down the middle, not down the side). Stylistically, the abrupt contrasts between the simplified, almost naïf silhouette of the figure, and the ridged lines like roots or membrane, indicative of entrapment, pain, and organic growth, evoke the extreme diversity of attentive draftsmanship and gestural brushstroke of Transavanguardia painting, the ambience of Paladino’s artistic debut.