The most striking aspect of the multi-faceted oeuvre of New York artist Auguste Garufi is its intensity. The concentration of his portraits and the self-contained drama of his sculptural installations do not leave any doubt that their goal is to deeply engage the viewer emotionally.
In his work, which includes sculptures, drawings and paintings, Garufi obsessively repeats a small number of subjects: heads, hands, a bird, a few flowers. Part of a personal mythology with autobiographical meanings, these subjects are represented in different ways, with a freshness of style and in a variety of registers and media. They become the necessary starting point for a compelling exploration of different materials, textures, tones, ways of capturing light and shadow, and the endless combination of these elements. Garufi shows a deep fascination for materials, surfaces and the very process of art-making.
Garufi’s work is historically rooted on many levels. Several formal influences are detectable in his paintings and sculptures, some of which unexpected and idiosyncratic and thereby particularly interesting. These influences fuse in a uniquely personal contemporary style, which is tinged with nostalgia. In his beautiful and moving sculptures, for example, the roughness of the formal details and textures is used to achieve impressionistic effects of light and shadow, creating an emotional impact similar to the sculptures of Medardo Rosso. At the same time, Garufi often repeats several times the same sculptural element in his installations – joined hands, for example – borrowing a strategy typical of minimalist artists. In this way, by combining elements apparently antithetic, he creates a new way of experiencing the single artwork.
An additional and unexpected element in his work seems also relevant to fully appreciate his broad cultural references. Looking at several of his portraits, both drawings and sculptures, one is struck by the intensity and the ascetic restraint of the faces, which find an interesting parallel in Byzantine art. Another element reinforces this subtle and perhaps involuntary connection. The artist’s fascination for precious materials like gold and silver leaf with their luminosity and ever-changing reflections, which he applies to the surface of sculptures and even paintings, directly refers to the taste for extreme preciousness of Byzantine artists.
From his cavernous studio in Brooklyn, Garufi continues to produce works of art that engage with their emotional intensity and seduce with their formal richness.