Horses, Dogs, and Psychopaths: Maurizio Cattelan in Houston

By
Share:

Controversial Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is infamous for his sculptural portrayals of Pope John Paul II being felled by a meteorite and a childlike Hitler kneeling and praying, as well as a performance piece at the Museum of Modern Art, where he had an actor don a giant Picasso head and engage visitors. Although it’s been seven years since the 50-year-old Pop-conceptualist has had a solo show in America, Cattelan has been busy in Europe, as witnessed by the survey show of recent works at the Menil Collection in Houston. Integrated by the artist into the museum’s collection of medieval and modernist works, the show presents a dialogue between the present and the past that ironically comments on religion, politics, and art history.

Cattelan heralds the crowd into the exhibition with a lifelike sculpture of a drummer boy set on the edge of the museum’s celebrated Renzo Piano building. Inside, the enigmatic artist questions the power of the church by putting two taxidermied dogs watching over a pair of chicks in a room full of religious icons; juxtaposing a stuffed horse with a sign stuck in it that relates to crucifixions with two surrealist masterpieces by Rene Magritte; and presenting a realistic figure of a restrained psychopath positioned in her bed to resemble a backward Jesus on the cross.

Nationalism and political aggression are critiqued in the pieces Ave Maria, which has three arms extending from the wall is a fascist salute, and All, which disturbingly offers nine shrouded bodies carved in precious marble. Meanwhile, Cattelan satirizes art history with the installation of an Arte Povera-style painting being formed by a workman’s broom leaning against a canvas, and a sculpture of a pair of graying men in suits, which suggest the artist aging as both Gilbert & George, reclining like dead men on a bed in a gallery with a Warhol electric chair painting, and a George Segal sculpture of a contemplative woman seated on a chair, based on Rodin’s The Thinker.

A prankster, Cattelan is provocative, entertaining, and truly an artist of our time — wittingly telling Interview magazine’s Michele Robecchi last year, “I never even use my hands to create my work, just my ear glued to the phone.”

Maurizio Cattelan continues at the Menil Collection in Houston through August 15. A catalogue, with an essay by exhibition curator Franklin Sirmans, is available at Amazon.

Click through below for a gallery of images.

Maurizio Cattelan, Ave Maria, 2007. Polyurethane and metallic parts, clothes, paint. Edition of 3 + 2 AP, edition 2/3. Dimensions variable - approx. 18 x 29 x 46 inches © Maurizio Cattelan. Collection Danielle and David Ganek. Photo: Attilio Maranzano. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2003. Body in resin, synthetic hair, clothes electronic device, bronze drum, 31-1/2 x 33-1/2 x 22 inches. © Maurizio Cattelan. Courtesy Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, TX. Photo: Michael Bodycomb. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2009. Horse skin, fiberglass and resin. Installation at Tate Modern for the exhibition “Pop Life,” 2009. © Maurizio Cattelan. Courtesy: Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Photo credit: Zeno Zotti. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2007. Resin, clothes, hair, wood. 94-1/2 x 55-1/8 x 27-1/2 inches. © Maurizio Cattelan, Courtesy the artist and the Bramen Collection. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2007. Two taxidermied dogs and two chicks. Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz, 1st floor. © Maurizio Cattelan. Courtesy the artist and The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Collection. Courtesy Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photo: Markus Tretter. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2009. Canvas, wood, and plastic, 82 5⁄8 X 33 1⁄2 X 23 5⁄8 inches. © Maurizio Cattelan. Photo: Zeno Zotti. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2010. Mixed Media, 34-1/4 x 59-1/4 x 32-1/4 inches. © Maurizio Cattelan. Photo: Hester + Hardaway, Houston. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, All, 2007. Marble. Installation view Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2nd floor. © Maurizio Cattelan. Courtesy Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photo: Markus Tretter. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Installation at the Menil Collection, 2010. Photo: Hester + Hardaway, Houston. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Installation at the Menil Collection, 2010. Photo: Hester + Hardaway, Houston. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Installation at the Menil Collection, 2010. Photo: Hester + Hardaway, Houston. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston

Maurizio Cattelan, Installation at the Menil Collection, 2010. Photo: Hester + Hardaway, Houston. Courtesy The Menil Collection, Houston