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Veiled Dualities: The Portraiture of Claudio Ruggieri

Claudio Ruggieri’s new work consists of portraits of men and women, black and white, which play on the theme of duality. Ruggieri creates drawings of faces in charcoal and pen and ink. Some of the faces are simplified with hard geometry while others express subtle nuance in modelling. Certain faces are bathed in light while others are obscured by shadow. Like Balzac, Ruggieri seems to have a caring regard for all his cast of faces, be they ingenuous, worldly, or hardened by adversity, they are treated with pathos. Outwardly his faces reflect a changing ethnic and cultural fabric of the artist’s native Genoa and Europe as a whole. They further assume an archetypal dimension evoking such dualities as masculine and feminine, black and white, east and west, rich and poor.

Drawings by Claudio Ruggieri, circa 2000.

In completing his works, Ruggieri copies the drawings onto acetate and composes the transparencies one atop the other. The faces which he combines appertain to different races and have different expressions, shapes, somatic characteristics. At times they have different physical orientations. Viewed together, drawing upon transparent drawing, a third eye might be defined by an inverted mouth or certain parts of the face become strangely prominent. In certain pieces, combinations of black and white suggest psychoanalytic meaning, that might be expressed in the villainous “shadow” of a “hero.” More often than not, however, black ceases to be black and white. Human alchemy emerges from Ruggieri’s dialectical portraits which afford the viewer glimpses of a noble transformation.

Noteworthy among works exhibited with the faces of Claudio Ruggieri is a series of small paintings by Lucio Spinozzi. Spinozzi had a near death experience in his native city of Venice when a ship collided with his small passenger boat in the Adriatic during a storm. Spinozzi’s boat sank quickly with he and the other passengers trapped inside the cabin. Spinozzi and the others forced the door open and helped one another to swim to safety. The paintings he made in response to the accident are chaotic, powerful expressions of the sea, reflecting the amorphous shapes, weight, transparency, and opacity of water.

© Daniel Rothbart, 2001.

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