Young Artists 2023 Art

Star Italian Painter Giangiacomo Rossetti Isn’t Worried About the Figuration Boom Going Bust


There are about the same number of muscles in the hand as there are in the face, Giangiacomo Rossetti reminds me. For the New York-based artist, the comparison stresses the sheer expressive capacity of both body parts. “The hand is everything in painting,” he says, citing French theorist Pierre Klossowski’s influential but little-known 1965 text Les lois de l’hospitalité.

Indeed, Rossetti’s emotionally brooding portraits present human flesh as at once sophisticated and articulate, brawny and robust. This exaggerated verisimilitude is central to his process, which resembles the tumultuous reactions by which the natural world evolves and transforms itself.

Having come to painting late after experimenting with conceptual art, Rossetti educated himself through an excavation of art historical texts and technical bulletins. Perhaps it is this autodidactic excitement that fuels his volcanic fits of productivity.

Giangiacomo Rossetti, Fantasia n.7 - Auto ipnosi, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali.

The Milan native’s work rose to prominence on the cusp of the present figuration phenomenon. Today, the 34-year-old muses, “There is definitely an oversaturation of figurative painting, but there were also quite a few periods in which there was just figurative painting... for thousands of years. So I guess it can be fine.”

When the artist turned to the canvas, he felt like he was doing something “rebellious.” Today, the idea that painting a figure could be an act of defiance appears absurd, but perhaps that is the point. “I don’t want any despotism, any strict lineage,” he proclaims, before concluding, “to begin with, the idea of making a painting was about breaking with lineage.”

Giangiacomo Rossetti, Fantasia n.6 - Contratto devozionale, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali.

In Fantasia n.6 –Contratto devozionale, 2020, a work first exhibited in Rossetti’s 2020 solo show at Greene Naftali, one figure drives a stake into the arm of another with a metal mallet. The piece began as a celestial scene where two planetary bodies held each other in orbit, but Rossetti decided the image wasn’t working. He altered the picture’s composition, resulting in a painting whose subjects seem to emit an almost gravitational intensity.

On the phone, he proudly observes that, recently, he’s experiencing a similar moment in the studio, “where everything is beginning to fall apart.” He’s working on a new show with the New York gallery, which is slated to open next spring. It’s one of those periods where everything is up for grabs again, where pictorial decay and creative rebirth intermingle with tremendous effect.

For more about CULTURED's 2023 Young Artists, read our features with Alex TatarskyCharisse Pearlina Weston, and Oscar yi Hou.