Menil Collection

Born in Padua in 1960, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is known for his playful yet disconcerting use of materials, objects, and actions – and for manipulating their larger contexts and meaning. In his work the artist unleashes critiques on a range of issues, from nationalism and organized religion to art history and to the very concept of an art museum. Cattelan’s uncanny juxtapositions uproot and invert conventional understandings of the world around us.

Maurizio Cattelan at the Menil is the U.S. debut of recent large-scale works and site-specific installations as well as four new works. The artist’s first solo show in this country since 2003, it also marks his return to sculpture. In Cattelan’s sculpture, the ability of images to embody social issues – social, political, moral — is as daring as it is powerful.

The 1997 Venice Biennale established Cattelan’s significance as an heir to Arte Povera. By combining the familiarity and accessibility of Pop Art and the unpredictability of Dada and Surrealism with iconic and controversial imagery (corrupt Popes, headless horses, Nazi salutes), the disturbing aspects of Cattelan’s work are lightened somehow by their absurdities.

For the last five years the artist has focused on publishing and curatorial projects that have included the 2002 founding of The Wrong Gallery (and its subsequent display at Tate Modern), and on collaborations such as Permanent Food (an occasional journal comprising a pastiche of pages torn from other magazines).

Deeply involved in the art and politics of the country of his birth, Cattelan functions in the world of global art and images. He lives in New York but maintains an apartment in Milan, where he began his career as artist-provocateur.

Cattelan often first visualizes his works in two dimensions⎯seeing how it will look on the printed or digital page⎯perhaps because of the daunting figurative and literal weight of making sculpture. At the heart of his endeavors has been the desire to create a body of images that “lives in your head,” in the subconscious, which Cattelan maintains are triggered not so much by seeing his work in the flesh but rather through reproductions in print and on a computer screen.

The Menil exhibition, which will remain on view for much of the year, will focus on recent large-scale works first seen in Europe in 2007 along with recent sculptures. Cattelan has also created other works in response to his site visits to the Menil, which included the museum’s renowned Surrealist holdings. While a “solo” show, Maurizio Cattelan at the Menil is in a real sense also a group show, featuring a range of paintings and objects–mostly from the 1960s and 70s–that Cattelan, in collaboration with Sirmans, has selected from the Menil’s large permanent collection. Together, artist and curator have raided the museum’s attic.

Prints by Andy Warhol, for example, mingle with works by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, James Lee Byars, and Francis Bacon. The exhibition will also include several pieces by Arte Povera figures Alighiero e Boetti and Michelangelo Pistoletto, as well their forebear, Lucio Fontana.

Rather than filling a room by itself, Cattelan’s work will be exhibited throughout the museum: some quietly inserted into the nooks and crannies of Antiquities and Surrealist galleries, others more prominently placed. Topping it all off, so to speak, is Cattelan’s Untitled (2003), a “drummer boy” perched on the Menil’s roof (echoing the Gűnter Grass novel, “The Tin Drum,” the piece, to some observers, is an audible warning or call to arms).

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated, color catalogue.

For further information and images, contact the press office, 713.525.9400, or press@menil.org

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