01.03.2022 - Domus n.1066, marzo 2022

Autonomy and consensus: the hidden difficulties of “sophisticated pop”

“In painting, I’m interested in the dialectic between the urge to represent the world and the ability to create an autonomous formal field, independent of its subject.”

A refined writer on European architecture, an art expert and a professor at Milan Polytechnic, Cino Zucchi is a sort of critic of metaphors and visions who reveals his ideas in cultured digressions. “I love mannerism because of its awareness
of shared rules, yet it can also alter or ignore those rules when needed. I’m fascinated by today’s ability to manipulate images and give them new meanings in partial opposition to the elementary obsessions of last century.”
Citing myriad books and experiences, Zucchi connects refined and disparate artists, nimbly spanning periods, styles and temperaments: Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Monsù Desiderio, Diego Velázquez, Johann Füssli, Odilon Redon, Chaïm Soutine and Luc Tuymans. “Two texts reveal how depth and meaning can be produced in our present, which is deformed by media and the ‘dictatorship of the viewer’: Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Umberto Eco’s Apocalypse Postponed. Our common difficulty in judging leads to a journalistic overrating of contents and works, like those by Cattelan or Hirst, which are famous for this reason, not because their mechanisms are understood. If the last century responded to the kitsch of commercial art with abstraction and hermeticism, today art can work on several levels, with cultured interpretations not opposing a more direct and popular consumption. We could call it ‘sophisticated pop’.
Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Borromini’s San Carlino, Ensor’s Christ’s Entry into Brussels, or Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 show how it’s possible and often moving. It’s art that makes daily experience magnificent without preaching or claiming to save the world.” Zucchi eventually comes to Paul Valéry.
“I like art that transfigures the resistances and peculiarities of the material it works on. As Valéry said, a poet’s difficulties inspire him with ideas rather than depriving him of them.” It is the inverse link between painting and architecture, an unresolved duplicity between the autonomous and representative dimensions. In the former, the historical function is to represent the world via images. In the latter, to convey a function by disengaging itself from images.