The Enigma of the Hour (1911), a painting of a clock ticking high above a courtyard awash in angular, creeping shadows. Paolini cites de Chirico as his muse, but instead of committing to canvas large, abstract concepts (like time), Paolini explores the layers of meaning and ambiguity already present in art. Many pieces reference antiquity, the starting point of Western art; others set different objects in direct dialogue: In Mimesi (1975), two busts are turned face-to-face, while Anna-logia (1966) is a Russian doll of images — a photograph of a photograph. The significance of this and other pieces in the show is not immediately apparent, but as de Chirico put it in a 1911 self-portrait, "What shall I love if not the enigma?"
Giorgio de Chirico, Autoritratto (detail), 1924. Courtesy Galleria dello Scudo / © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.
Calling an exhibition inscrutable may seem an odd compliment to pay, but no word better captures this electric pairing of Giorgio (1888–1978) and contemporary artist Giulio Paolini. De Chirico founded "Metaphysical Painting," an early-twentieth-century movement that combined classicism with surreal imagery. Several arresting examples of the style are displayed here, like