Paolo Ventura: Eclipse at Edwynn Houk Gallery

Art Scene

Paolo Ventura: Eclipse at Edwynn Houk Gallery

Paolo Ventura, a native of Milan born in 1968, is a visual storyteller. His penchant for crafting stories is a direct result of his lineage. His father was a successful children’s book author, and his grandmother, a devotee of the oral tradition, often shared stories with Ventura of her upbringing in the Italian countryside during World War II.

© Paolo Ventura. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Although Ventura’s own style of crafting tales involves the fiction of his father and the nonfiction of his grandmother, through a mix of history and imagination, it has evolved into a creative force all its own. Ventura’s process has the feel of the production of a stage play captured in two dimensions. To start, he builds and paints stage sets. He also dresses and directs actors. Each of these elements is then photographed and combined, resulting in a work of art that hovers between photography and painting.

© Paolo Ventura. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Formal qualities including line and scale, as well as a tight color palette, are prevalent in Ventura’s visual language. Grey and blue hues with pops of a dull red can be found in many of the works. In a somewhat ambiguous narrative structure, figures and architecture set against grey or blue skies at contrasting scales make up the universe of each piece. Several of the images include three unrelated figures that are in dialogue spatially within the image frame. Although they may be set at distance or have their backs turned to each other, the placement of each subject helps the eye of the viewer move around the frame. The effect suggests that a story or an interrelationship exists between the characters, but it is one that is left up to the imagination of the viewer to decide.

© Paolo Ventura. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

The varying shades of blue in a sky or grey in a cityscape help convey an element of emotion and mood both subtle and significant in setting a tone for Ventura’s mysterious narratives. The figures in each image are photographs collaged onto the painted backdrops and sets that Ventura creates. However, it is very difficult to distinguish between the textures of the photographs and the paint.

© Paolo Ventura. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

As a whole, the body of work creates a master narrative, albeit one that is as unresolved as the individual works alone. One clue to the storyline seems to lie in recurring characters in various pieces that suggest perhaps an intriguing romantic plot and the lurking presence of a sinister gentleman in a black suit.

Paolo Ventura: Eclipse is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery through November 11, 2017.