In its thrilling manipulation of human proportions and compelling dreamlike vision, Untitled is reminiscent of imaginative fables in which alternate Lilliputian realities exist just beneath the fabric of earthly life, such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Cattelan’s practice engages in this twisted humor but orients it away from the land of fantasy to that of a mundane office corridor, archetypal of the artist’s impulse to corrupt expectations of human existence. The sculpture capsizes any preconceived notions of space, opening a fictive dimension of wonder and creating an exhilarating bodily sensation of monumentality for the viewer. As Massimiliano Gioni explained, “Cattelan’s objects seem to dwell in an intermediate zone, a no-man’s land. They clearly occupy the same space as their viewers and yet they step back from it, enclosed in a suspended, unreal atmosphere that is obviously fictional and constructed. Most often, Cattelan’s work forces viewers to modify not only their beliefs, but also their physical collocation in space… No matter how aggressive and violent, Cattelan’s works always tend to undermine their own authority by choosing a marginal position. They never stand upright: they are literally and metaphorically de-based, deprived of a pedestal, always in a precarious position. They are sculptures, but they systematically refuse the moral and formal weight of monuments.” (Massimiliano Gioni, "Maurizio Cattelan—Rebel with a Pose" in Maurizio Cattelan, London and New York, 2003, p. 173)
Maurizio Cattelan has been one of the most imaginative and consistently surprising artists working on the international art scene since the late 1980s, producing an extraordinarily diverse and innovative body of work that forces us to question the way in which we view and understand the world around us. Cattelan can arguably be regarded as an ‘anti-artist,’ subverting the accepted methods and ideals behind the creation of more traditional art: “I am not an artist. I really don’t consider myself an artist.” (The artist cited in an interview with Nancy Spector in Francesco Bonami, et. al., Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2000, p. 9) Born in 1960 in Padua, Cattelan’s youth coincided with a time of political and social upheaval within Italy: this spirit of insurgence and the potential for change seems to infuse the artist’s oeuvre, imbuing his works with a sense of rebellion against sociological, cultural, and political norms. As a result, Cattelan’s individual installations, varied as they are, can be interpreted not only as the work of a brilliantly provocative creative force whose work consistently challenges accepted boundaries and transcends the more familiar concepts of art history, but also arguably as a profound examination of the definition of ‘normality’ itself.
Moving beyond the outwardly self-effacing humor of Untitled’s theatrically absurd dimensions, Cattelan’s sculpture disorients in more ways than one. Never a stranger to subversive political statements that slyly reveal the unstable underbellies of contemporary life, Cattelan’s Untitled focuses a critical eye on the structural reality of that which surrounds us but is perpetually ignored for its familiarity. Ultimately, Untitled brilliantly encapsulates Cattelan’s utterly distinctive and remarkably diverse artistic practice, and can be seen as a highly significant instance of the artist’s acerbic subversion of creative, cultural and social traditions.
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