For her upcoming exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery, Beatrice Caracciolo will present a new series of works inspired by The Blind Leading the Blind (1568), the celebrated painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the collection of the Museo di Capodimonte. The work has belonged to the Farnese collection since 1611 and is housed in Naples, where Caracciolo grew up familiar with the painting since childhood. Caracciolo is known primarily for her large-scale drawings of scenes from nature and art history, abstracted through controlled yet delicate markings. Using a breadth of techniques and materials to wield expressive lines and varied textures, Caracciolo here distills the sophisticated linear composition of Bruegel’s painting through a constantly evolving process of destruction and rebuilding.
A Bruegel masterpiece, The Blind Leading the Blind (1568) is characteristic of his work for its combination of genre and landscape paintings with an interpretation of a Christian parable. Groups of blind beggars were not uncommon in the Northern Renaissance period, and Bruegel incorporated them into numerous works. Here, the blind are depicted at the moment they begin to fall, their inevitable descent punctured by the perpendicular diagonals of their wooden sticks and the horizontal landscape behind them.
Bruegel’s painting is noted for the downward sloping of the figures in a precisely parabolic curve and the anatomical accuracy of the blind men’s eye disorders, and Caracciolo pays particular attention to both details in her related series, The Blind. Large horizontal works on paper in charcoal, pastel and pigments offer interpretations of the painting’s overall composition, identifying and reiterating the significant linear forces governing the blind men’s downward motion, while smaller, rectangular works on paper, predominantly executed in charcoal, examine the painting’s details. Several of these bearing the subtitle heads tenderly outline the expressive depictions of ignorance and suffering on the blind men’s’ faces, offering a response of sorts to her large-scale work, The Blind 16, in which the men’s faces are rendered in blank ovals. Bruegel’s forms hover beneath the surface of Caracciolo’s works, enhanced by her spontaneous markings and collaged paper elements that add texture and depth.