Enzo Torcoletti at JMOCA

Enzo Torcoletti at JMOCA and the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

A dreary post-holidays visit to the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art provided the happy reward of an important exhibit of Enzo Torcoletti's sculptures which wed the modernism of Brancusi's elegant reductions and the material force of Noguchi's virtuosity with stone and wood, with Classical themes and mythology. This is an artist who has consistently grown his own original ideas from his masterful predecessors.

Every artist builds his work where there remains "unfinished" business from the past. Torcoletti's mature work, developed in Italy and St. Augustine over the past 35 years or more, carries tradition as a companion, but not as a straitjacket.

It is difficult for me to think of another sculptor in North East Florida with his deep awareness of past cultures married to an understanding of material limitations and possibilities, which Torcoletti utilizes in his masterful, seductively beautiful oeuvre.

The only other sculptor of note in this area is Joe Segal, whose works also reveal a dedicated development of a strong aesthetic over a career of several decades.

Unfortunately, the rest are hobbyists, or amateurs without foundational knowledge of art history and/or the skills: mechanical, spiritual or intellectual, which a serious artist must have an abundance of. In addition, artists must carry tradition with an awareness of our time in order to avoid the complacency of provincialism, with its ignorance of the larger world of art.

Torcoletti  is honored with two exhibits: one at the Cummer Museum as well as the one at JMOCA. (I have not yet seen the exhibit at the Cummer.)

At JMOCA, too little space has been provided to give each work distance for full, unimpeded viewing. It would have been better to have shown his works in the larger galleries, or at least used the other side gallery, opposite. Nevertheless, the intimacy of the small gallery allows the work to be seen in close juxtaposition, reinforcing the diversity of form and surface which he has so skillfully shaped.

The pieces are human-scaled, and the shaping of each element has the warmth of human touch, even when the work has been polished, as with the wooden elements of certain pieces, or ground to a uniform surface as with granite and marble. His choice of material is appropriate to the themes he uses for inspiration.

In only a few pieces, the bases are either non-existent or generic. Whether that is because they may be destined for permanent public placement which might be a limitation in this regard, or, whether Torcoletti has other reasons,  the absence of bases which "finish off" some of the works is not serious enough to interfere with the overall success of his works. (This is my only criticism) One thinks of Brancusi who made the base a part of the sculpture, often changing them, or recycling other bases for better effect. Torcoletti does finish, or integrate with the carving, the bases of certain pieces which adds to the strength of those sculptures.

The splendid large drawings Torcoletti has included which are studies or designs of the works shown either here or at the Cummer Museum, give insight into the meticulousness of Torcoletti's thought processes. In these beautiful drawings, one senses the chiseling and emphasis of form which will evolve from his initial ideas. Some of the works have not yet been realized, which is tantalizing for the viewer.

The finished quality of these drawings suggest that they are the final presentation, rather than working drawings, or sketches of ideas for sculpture, although there are revealing glimpses into the complexity of installation for some of the large, outdoor, public pieces. These are the works of a truly professional artist who thinks out the contingencies of sometimes difficult installations.

It would have been interesting to see some of Torcoletti's initial drawn markings from which we might learn more about the inner rhythms of his thought processes. We are presented with the virtuosity without a sense of the struggle for form which every artist goes through as part of the process. In a museum show, such as this, working drawings should also have been presented. It is the initial intuitive drawings which reveal the first response to a vision and tell us so much more about the artist.

Drawing is the foundation of any serious work of art. It is the skeleton upon which the artist builds his dreams. Torcoletti shows his strength of vision in his drawings and his deeply refined, tactile sculptures in this outstanding exhibition.