Review: Daniel Cicchelli’s 'Inside Out' exhibit at the Heidelberg Project

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The opening night of Daniel Cicchelli’s Inside Out exhibit is anything but typical. The walls — painted by Cicchelli himself in a variety of black and white geometric shapes — are covered with bold, violent paintings that demand to be seen in a way that is almost disorienting. Everything about his work is raw. It’s angry and imperfect, almost frantic; not the kind of art you would hang in your living room. But there’s a sense of honesty and simplicity to it that is beautiful and extremely refreshing. Cicchelli paints what he feels, and nothing more.

“It’s just really about getting something out,” Cicchelli says. He explains that he feels a sort of energy inside of him that he pours into his painting, creating canvases that reflect his emotions. He uses mostly acrylic paints, never oil. It doesn’t dry fast enough.

Cicchelli’s art is bold and unique, but maybe what’s most interesting about the exhibit is Cicchelli himself. Browsing through his pieces, I had expected someone enigmatic and strange, maybe even arrogant. But Cicchelli is nothing like his work. He is soft spoken and amiable. He prefers asking questions to answering them. I wonder if this intriguing contrast between the art and the artist is what Inside Out is really about; intense hidden emotions reflected in bold, honest art that is nothing at all like the presentation of the man who creates it.

My favorite piece in Inside Out is Cicchelli’s self-portrait, located in a tiny, closet-like room to the left of the main exhibit. Painted in a mixture of blues and whites, it’s haunting and skeletal, the same shocking yet beautiful aesthetic that is characteristic of the rest of Cicchelli’s work. His eyes are wide, mouth open as if he’s coming up for air. It is difficult to merge that version, the ethereal, haunted artist, with the mild-mannered man standing in front of me.

But that is, I think, the point.

Inside Out will be on display alongside Grandma Techno's photos through June during gift shop hours at the POST-HAB gallery at Heidelberg’s Number House; 3632 Heidelberg St., Detroit; more information is available at
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