Roberto Cuoghi

Roberto Cuoghi, “Untitled (Body Builder)”, 2003. Collezione privata. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Roberto Cuoghi, “Untitled (Body Builder),” 2003. Private collection. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

One of the most radical artists of his generation, Roberto Cuoghi (Modena, 1973) defies easy classification. During his formative period at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, in the early twentyfirst Century, Cuoghi initiated a form of integral transformation of the self that it would be simplistic to term a “performance” and which engaged him for several years: dyeing his hair grey and deliberately putting on weight, the artist gradually transformed himself into a highly faithful copy of his father, then in his sixties.
The process of transformation was not limited to outward similarities but involved Cuoghi adopting his father’s eating habits, daily routines and manner, an operation that tested both the formal and temporal limits of performance. The undertaking lasted for many years, but there is no form of documentation of it, whether in video or photograph, the emphasis being on the existential dimension of experience.

From the outset this seminal early work by the artist clarified the themes on which he has since concentrated his artistic research: the idea of metamorphosis, a reflection on time, the principle of identification and exploration of the concept of identity as staging. Cuoghi pursues this research through a variety of languages and materials ranging from sculpture to video, photography, installation, painting, drawing and sound composition.
His research into identity as a place of metamorphosis and time as a dimension of existence is manifested in the many self-portraits he has produced in recent years, in which he transfigures the concept of the self-portrait by presenting an image of himself that is invariably different in appearance, age and the iconographic references these works evoke. Cuoghi approaches drawing and painting as fields for incessant experimentation: through the integrated use of materials, media, techniques and procedures, the artist explores the hybrid dimension of the images, focusing on the concept of metamorphosis, not only thematically but also with respect to the material nature of his works.

This is the case with Untitled (Body Builder), in the Madre’s permanent collection, created by layering different planes of enamel, spray paint, marker and acrylic: the fluidity with which the materials and different media merge with one another manifests, on the formal level, what happens on the level of the subject represented. The image of the body builder, in fact, evokes an idea of a body in transformation, which tends towards an inner and ideal image of the self, but one shaped by a specific external culture, while the appearance of this strange being contemplates the coexistence of male and female, human and animal. An image that fluctuates between nature and artifice, verisimilitude and bizarreness, dream and reality.