October 28 – December 4, 2021
From Buenos Aires, Domingo Guccione (1898–1966) was a classical musician and self-taught artist. He made his geometric works in the period spanning 1930 to 1955. When he died a decade later, the art remained in the family until Ricco/Maresca presented it for the first time at the Independent Art Fair in 2020. This show makes it clear that Guccione was an artist of visionary imagination, creating geometric drawings, employing colored pencils and graphite, that usually document angular, futuristic buildings, seen from both the outside and from within. The works are as much designs of an abstract nature as they are tightly conceived domiciles. Guccione, a man of mystical inclination, felt he was expressing an internal force through the creation of these marvelously precise designs. The pictures fill their space completely, constructed of colored squares, rectangles, and triangles that suggest stairs, windows, roofs, and the façades of structures. While his art received scant attention during his lifetime, it would be incorrect to deem him an outsider artist. The work, schematic in the extreme, is highly sophisticated even if it doesn’t actively participate in the governing movements of Guccione’s time.
Given how recently the artist’s work has come into public recognition, there is the sense that Guccione is now being discovered as an idiosyncratic creator of more than small note. While Guccione is very, very good, he is also hard to categorize. These works demonstrate the symmetrical geometric rigidities we often see in outsider art, but they also reflect the architectural boom going on in Argentina at that time, when immigrants were pouring into the country. So the buildings we see, usually monochromatic—yellow, orange, or red—accurately reflect a time of active urban development. One drawing (all the works are dated ca. 1930–55) has only yellow in it, along with black, white, and gray outlining triangular shapes that look like the tops of houses. The work is entirely filled with the elements of Guccione’s powerful, orderly imagination. One jumps from appreciating the piece as something entirely abstract to a perception of the homes as geometrical structures placed next to each other. Black and white stripes cross several of the roofs or suggest steps leading up to the homes. Yet the patterns can be read as abstract designs. The double reading, non-objective and architectural, is central to Guccione’s sensibility.
Another drawing, composed of yellow and red, looks like it depicts an interior space with yellow walls that angle up either to a stairway or to a mystical triangle rising upward. Windows surround the space, and a floor, embellished with black and white triangles, is found as well. Like all of Guccione’s drawings, the space is crowded with the shapes of his invention, and also as happens with his work, it is hard to separate individual structures from the overall design. This does not mean that the art is overly intricate—instead, it suggests a teeming creativity, in which the function of the shapes is meant to indicate spaces that could easily be termed sacred. The spiritual suggestiveness we experience in a drawing with a thin gray bar dividing it in half, exists in the top part as a complicated array of triangles with black and gray stripes, which are right side up and upside down. It is hard to see houses in the patterning. On the bottom half, we see what looks like a pair of walls offering geometric forms, leading to double doors, above which is an abstract pattern. The content is so intricate as to be mesmerizing, balanced as it is on the cusp of visionary realism and nonobjective design.
Guccione clearly deserves greater recognition. He felt that he was a medium translating the forms he imagined into something visible. The art cannot be seen as belonging to the geometric formalism that was quite popular when he made these drawings. But that is of small matter; instead, he devised a planar geometry capable of suggesting architecture and the spiritual imagination. His designs record a desire to animate forms with implications that are impossible to note by sight alone. Thus, his intricate patterns, realistic or not, became a way of transmitting an inner vision. It appears that he was not much influenced by the art trends; this made him original in ways that are memorable.