Bouncing Skull

Paulo Canevari

February 25 – May 24, 2021

Image stills from: Bouncing Skull, 2007, Digital Video 10:30, On loan courtesy of the artist

A young man enters the screen, and immediately flicks up a most unusual ball, attempting to juggle it in the air for as many hits as possible.  The ball rolls away and is swiftly brought back to center-frame.  Quickly, we realize it’s not a ball, but what appears to be a human skull.  The action is set against a backdrop of half demolished buildings, and we hear the child panting, shuffling, and straining against traffic noise in the distance.  The extraordinary is superimposed on the everyday, provoking a host of unsettling associations.

Does the work offend through its callous disregard for a human life – or more specifically, the disregard for the formerly alive? What could this boy be thinking? What moral obligations is this protagonist failing to live up to?  What are the implications of this work - ethical, political, historical? Canevari does not tell us how to think about the work, but only leaves us with a contextual clue: the video was shot in the shadow of the former Serbian Army Headquarters in Belgrade, that was bombed in 1999 by NATO during the Kosovo war.

Bouncing Skull was presented at the 52nd Venice Biennale curated by Robert Storr in 2007, and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Paolo Canevari was born in Rome in 1963, a third-generation artist in his family. Since his first solo show in 1991, in which he started using car tubes and tires, Canevari has developed a personal language aimed at revisiting the everyday and the most intimate aspects of memory. Over the years, and through the employment of a variety of media and techniques, from animation to large-format drawings, videos and installations, his projects have taken on a strong conceptual connotation. Focusing on the use of symbols, icons and images that are part of the collective memory, his works often invite viewers into a direct confrontation.

The artist was invited to participate in several biennials globally, including Liverpool Biennial 2004; the Whitney Biennale (2006), and the 52nd International Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2007). Widely exhibited at prominent institutions around the world, Canevari’s works have appeared at the National Gallery and MACRO, Rome; MART, Rovereto; Museion, Bozen; The Drawing Center, PS1 Contemporary Art Center and MoMA, New York; IMMA, Dublin; KW, Berlin; and Parkview Green Contemporary Art Museum, Beijing. Pieces by Canevari are included in prestigious international museum collections such as MoMA, New York; the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Creation, Paris; Rome’s MACRO and MART, Rovereto. Currently, Paolo Canevari’s works can also be seen in Self-portrait / Autoritratto, a solo exhibition at Cardi Gallery in London, which will remain on view through April 17th.


Contact Information

Paul Nicholson

Director, Martin Art Gallery
Address Muhlenberg College Baker Center for the Arts 2400 Chew Street Allentown, PA 18104