Anatomical dysfunction is everywhere in the latest unsettling sculptures by Italian artist Alessandro Boezio. Legs and fingers are woven into a braid, a ceramic vessel gets anthropomorphic with two legs kicking at its sides, and seven pairs of legs and butts form a fragmented human centipede. His imaginary arrangements are inspired by the father of surrealism, Hieronymus Bosch, and one work in particular: the Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony, as a three-part opus filled with demons and witches tormenting the Christian monk, who manages to remain uncorrupted.
Boezio first saw the work at the Royal Museums of Fine Art of Belgium, and thought it symbolic to use as inspiration for an exhibition in Brussels, currently on view at Macadam Gallery. “Each painted figure within Bosch’s work hides a precise, symbolic meaning related to the theme of temptation,” he points out. For example, in the right panel, a naked man has his foot stuck in a jar, which is an allusion to sex. Elsewhere, a demon is riding a wine vessel with animal legs, and further off, a naked woman—symbolizing luxury—hides inside a tree trunk, offering herself to the saint.
One finds traces of that imagery throughout Boezio’s work. The woman inside the tree is referenced with a rendition of two palms, with long branches for fingers. The vessel reappears twice. With the addition of human legs jutting out from the sides, the opening of the vase starts to look like an oversized orifice. From another angle, the vessel looks like a headless torso, with legs where its arms should be.
The rest of Boezio’s hybrid bodies, while less directly related to Bosch’s illustrations, tackle the same themes. It’s unclear whether the chaotic piles of limbs have found what they’re looking for—they seem stuck in a state of perpetual longing. “The temptation of lust has been a strong theme in the past, and has never lost its power. It is still an issue today. The imagery has changed, but the feelings haven’t,” remarks Boezio. “That's what I tried to do by reinterpreting Bosch.”
“My work is a middle ground between the past and the contemporary,” adds the artist. “This is also reflected in the materials I use for the final realization. Marble and ceramics are materials rooted in Italian tradition.” All of the sculptures in this series are draped in white, leaving us to focus solely on the silhouettes and the shadows they create.
In the gallery, alongside the twisted body parts working together to satisfy their desires, 12 sets of crossed fingers hang in a circle from the ceiling. The work is inspired by a different work by Bosch or one of his followers, The Temptation of St. Anthony. “St. Anthony, who is not to be tempted by the small demons that surround him, assumes a squatting position that is inscribed in a circular shape. His hands, in a gesture of prayer, are inscribed in a circle.” The installation is the only one of Boezio’s works lined with a saintly, golden glaze.