Friday, November 25, 2011


Mimmo Paladino is an Italian painter, printmaker and sculptor now in his sixties, not in the first rank of fame, but with a solid résumé of museum and gallery shows, respectable sales, and press coverage.

It has been more difficult than usual for me to decide how I feel about this particular body of work. The main virtue it seems to carry is sincerity. Earnestness and honesty, those are considerable qualities and certainly deserve respect.

On the other hand, once you have seen a bunch of examples, it starts to feel like you are looking at an anthology of 20th-century technical tropes – all of them pioneered by other people (now dead). I see the harsh outlines of Dubuffet, the melting ovals of Munch, the spidery calligraphy of Giacometti, the brazen curves of Picasso.

Seen that way, Mimmo Paladino becomes interesting as a phenomenon rather than as any kind of path-breaker. I suspect what he represents is the exact spot where the marketable (i.e. derivative) commercial product intersects with the established expectations and tastes of educated, middlebrow art consumers. Voilà, a successful career.