Fine Art Photography Daily

Paolo Ventura: An Invented World

Eclissi di sole, 2017

©Paolo Ventura, Eclissi di sole, 2017

“I use photography because what people see in photographs they believe is real – even if they know it is a model. When you go to a film, you know it’s a setup, but you cry, you get excited, you are deeply touched. People want to believe what they see on film. I photograph what does not really exist and that’s a paradox. I use photography not to describe reality but to tell a reconstructed story, an imaginary world. I’m very much fascinated by physical disappearance, from Ettore Majorana to Federico Caffè. Disappearance is extraordinary because it leaves everything open – if the body can’t be found, the disappearance lets imagination run wild – you imagine something but death is death” – Paolo Ventura


Some years ago, my husband gave me three Paolo Ventura books for my birthday. I spent many heavenly days immersing myself in the worlds of this creative master. I am so excited that an exhibition of his magical photographic works will open in Los Angeles at Galerie XII.  The show, An Invented World, spans six series over the last decade and provides the “most comprehensive overview of the celebrated Italian artist’s oeuvre on the West Coast to date, including the debut of new works.”  In addition, Galerie XII Los Angeles is  celebrating its first anniversary, so break out the champagne. The exhibition opens tonight and runs until March 14, 2020.

“Curatorially, Ventura’s work was a natural choice as it’s so visual and cinematographic.” says Gallerist Valerie-Anne Giscard d’Estaing. “I still remember the impact of seeing his work for the first time in Paris in 2009 and am excited to share his work with a West Coast audience.”

Born in 1968, Paolo Ventura grew up in Milan with summers spent in the hilltops of Eastern Tuscany. His father, Piero Ventura, was a children’s book author during the 1970s and 1980s. At the end of the 1980s, Ventura attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera where he was immersed in Italian history and techniques. He studied the visual language of the Italian Masters and, more importantly for his later works, studied fresco-painting.

At the beginning of the 1990s he started working as a fashion photographer, acquiring yet another technique. After a few years, Ventura moved to New York to pursue his personal artistic path. The stories his grandmother had told him about the two World Wars had very much impressed him and in his studio in Brooklyn he began to build and photograph small dioramas about World War II in Italy. In 2006 Contrasto published “War Souvenirs”, a collection of this work, which was followed by a number of exhibitions worldwide.

In 2010 he moved back to Italy, to Anghiari, a small town in Tuscany. There, in an old studio in the countryside, he began work on his project “Short Stories” using himself and his family as his photographic subjects, published by Aperture in 2016.

Ventura blends his technical abilities as well as his personal history to create painterly works in a very unique style.

Ventura’s work has been exhibited internationally in major institutions and galleries. His work has been the subject of several monographs including: War Souvenir (Contrasto, 2006); Winter Stories (Aperture and Contrasto, 2009); The Automaton (Peliti Asociati, 2011); Lo Zuavo Scomparso (Punctum Press, 2012); The Invented World (Danilo Montanari Editore, 2013); L’archivio Ritrovato di V.P. (APM Edizioni, 2014); Short Stories (Aperture, 2016); and Behind the Walls (Danilo Montanari Editore and Aperture, 2017). His work is included in public collections worldwide including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Lowe Art Museum, Miami, FL; the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome; the Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, Italy.

BBC’s comprehensive documentary “The Genius of Photography” includes Ventura’s photographs, and the artist is also the subject of The Prix Italia 2016 Best Movie in the TV Performing Arts category, “Paolo Ventura: The Vanishing Man.”

In 2011, Ventura was commissioned to make a new series for the Italian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennial. More recently, he has been commissioned to design major opera sets, including Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carouselin 2015 and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacciin 2017, as well as the January 2020 cover for Vogue Italia.

Behind the Walls #04, 2011(1)

©Paolo Ventura, Behind the Walls #04, 2011

The exhibition begins with Ventura’s third body of work Behind the Walls (2011), and notably the first in which he began inserting himself into his images. With access to a larger studio in Anghiari, his hometown in Italy, Ventura was able to now construct larger, life-size sets and backgrounds having moved from a Brooklyn apartment where his first two series were made using puppets and small dioramas.

The works on view then progress through his caricatured self-portraits in Short Stories (2012-2015) working with his wife and son in playful serial pieces to more recent large-scale pieces from Collages (2017-2019), which make up a predominant portion of the exhibition. These new works are constructed of multi-panel pieces featuring an anonymous cityscape where the character(s) seem to perpetually recede in importance relative to the scene or sometimes are not present at all (La Citta che scende, 2019).

Where for most of the decade Ventura had utilized himself to enliven the characters of his imagined history portrayed in straight photographs, the influence of painting and the ambiguous stories of the cities themselves take on more significance in later works. The small dioramic series Morte e Resurrezione II, 2018 and a unique three-dimensional work from his Paper Sculptures (2014-2016) will have their exhibition debuts as well, giving a further overview of Ventura’s expansive and unique practice that has garnered him wide critical acclaim.

Paolo Ventura has been the subject of more than forty-five international solo exhibitions since 2006 and was featured in the Italian pavilion of the 2011 Venice Biennale. His work is held in prominent collections of museums across Europe and North America and is featured in the current exhibition “Make Believe” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He lives and works in Italy. Galerie XII Los Angeles is open Wednesday – Saturday from 11am – 6pm and by appointment: (323) 917-5106

Behind the Walls #05, 2011

©Paolo Ventura, Behind the Walls #05, 2011

La Citta che scende, 2019

©Paolo Ventura, La Citta che scende, 2019

Homage to Saul Steinberg, 2014

©Paolo Ventura, Homage to Saul Steinberg, 2014

Morte e Resurrezione #01, 2019

©Paolo Ventura, Morte e Resurrezione #01, 2019

The Birdwatcher #01, 2013

©Paolo Ventura, The Birdwatcher #01, 2013

Behind the Walls #03, 2011

©Paolo Ventura, Behind the Walls #03, 2011

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