Approaching the Cummer from the West on Riverside Avenue, it would be easy to miss the"frieze" of sculptures by Enzo Torcoletti installed between large square, fluted columns parallel to the street. This is because of the placement of the columns, which obscures his modestly-sized works until one is stopped at the light, or while standing on the sidewalk immediately opposite the configuration. The installation of the works, when approached from a sidewalk intended for that purpose, are somewhat overwhelmed by the weight and scale of the columns plus the heavy lintel overhead, connecting the "façade." But, at least, we are allowed to see the work up close.
The insistence of the architecture does not prevent Torcoletti's works from asserting their authority as works of art. He has chosen pieces, all figurative, which encompass a range of stone material, carving technique, as well as various degrees of abstraction covering his career from the 1960's to the present.
We are treated to the Brancusi-like Embrace, from 1969, with its polished surface of very white marble and shallow carving within a cubic block, which emphasizes the emotional aspects of the idea. This work contrasts strongly, with Upper Nile, from a more recent date. This stunning work is done in a dark grey stone which Torcoletti has carved into a twisting shape, crowned by rough cutting at the top, which flares out from the figure. It is a metaphor for the river, which flares at its entry to the Mediterranean, while darkly mysterious, like the continent through which it flows.
There are a few other figures from early in his career which border on a kind of schema, which tend to look a bit dated compared to his mature work. But, they are mostly from the early phase of a career which has been shaped by steady self-criticism and awareness leading to genuine development of ideas around the subject of human form. One such example of a compleat idea is a dark grey piece which is iconic in form. Compact, with alternating smooth, polished surfaces and rough cutting, this piece has, at its apex, through cutting, suggesting a head with religious meaning. Not necessarily a specific religion, although a cross-shape suggests a face. I found myself thinking of this piece long after I had seen it. This only happens with works that have substance to them.
There are numerous works, here, ranging in various coloured stones, from white to pink, or buff, to red and dark brown, to grey. They are all approximately the same scale, much smaller than the works shown at JMOCA this Winter.
Torcoletti has established a recognizable style without repeating himself. This is most evident with the larger works, not seen here, but there are works at the Cummer exhibit which suggest the broad range of his thinking and technique.
The outdoor exhibit which is open at all hours, free to the public, will be at the Cummer until January 2015. Do not miss it. It is part of a well-deserved celebration of Torcoletti's work which started at JMOCA in a one man show at the end of 2013, which I have reviewed earlier.
There are a few other artists in this area who also deserve retrospectives at either of the two museums. Jacksonville tends to turn against the past accomplishments of its artists, as well as every good thing invented in the past. As a result, the city keeps trying to "reinvent the wheel," as a sage elder friend describes it. Let us hope that the interest in Torcoletti's work is not diminished, and that it will serve to stimulate more exhibits, perhaps even group shows of other deserving senior artists from the area.