I was introduced to NY artist Auguste Garufi last December. My friend Isabelle Ormières took me to his open studio in Red Hook, and she has just sent me a link to the very evocative short film she has been making about Auguste's work.
I was very struck by his vast studio - which had been badly flooded during Hurricane Sandy. He is a painter, sculptor, poet and installation artist, and his work constantly challenges the boundaries we set between media and genres. There is a startling contrast between the almost ethereal nature of his paper hangings, some of them with fragments or poetry printed on them, and the heavy materiality of recycled metal objects he uses in his elaborate and meditative installations. This is an artist who is true to his calling, living in absolute simplicity like the philosopher Wittgenstein on a small and Spartan single bed in a corner of the studio. His work touches on fundamental aspects of human existence, treated without the almost compulsory irony which prevents us from feeling much or deeply about so much contemporary art. His work is startling, fresh, disturbing in the way that it challenges conventional notions of spirituality and the categories of matter and spirit. Auguste Garufi is a whisp of a man, only barely corporeal and yet he exudes a phenomenal amount of energy. It is held back and channelled into the deeply repetitive craft work that goes into making paper, sewing, making his own type faces and printing on paper and fabric. This is a life lived as a work of art, and it is not surprising, though in a way scandalous that he exists on the margins or even beyond the gallery world and the art market. Not that he doesn't deserve to be more widely exhibited or collected. It's just that his drive goes into the work rather than into self-marketing.