Agostino Arrivabene, who appeared in the June 2014 issue of Juxtapoz, is having his first solo exhibition in America. The elusive Italian painter, usually cloistered in his three-story home and studio deep in the rural Italian countryside, brings his magic to NYC’s Cara Gallery. His work stands alone in the field of contemporary figurative painting for its unique surfaces, something you must experience with your own eyes. His process is at times destructive and then delicate, and his content is a wunderkammer of ancient mythology and alchemic transformation.

Agostino is like a foreign exchange student from an enigmatic era of science. Italians from the same region as Agostino say he speaks a different language, a sort of “ancient Latin” one could imagine casually spoken today only at a gathering of Alchemists Anonymous. The title of his exhibition, Hierogamy, means the sacred union – or, more simply, sex – between the mortal and the immortal.

The fusion of opposites relates both to the theme of this brand-new body of work as well as Agostino’s process itself, which is a combination of old master techniques and mad genius impulse. The heart of the exhibition is Agostino’s Sacrum Facare, in which the intimacy between two lovers appears to have lifted them into the ether and is now recomposing their two bodies into one otherworldly light source. The painting is in fact the result of Agostino’s attempt to destroy his own work: unhappy with his first go at it, he set the canvas on fire with the intent to start anew, but instead found new inspiration in the bubbling and crackling surface. The finished work has sprung from its own fiery death and, like a phoenix, is as magical and surreal.

Transformational union is a major theme in the exhibition. Agostino’s painting, Copia, features a tornado of coiling limbs in repose at the base of an apocalyptic Renaissance landscape. The Apparition of Persephone contemplates the cycle of death and rebirth through a process of decay and transformation. Agostino employs similar processes in the studio, for example, Arsa Terra, a painting on brass, involves a unique experiment born out of conditions of decomposition that cannot be replicated. The show promises to be a spectacle rich in ancient charm. —David Molesky and Scout Opatut

Opening reception: March 3, 2016 6-8 pm