Italian photographer Paolo Ventura (b. 1968) has been referred to as one of the art scene’s most interesting storytellers with his timeless and charmingly enigmatic works. Widely known for his elaborate narrative series acted out by the artist and his family, the whimsical allegories touch upon many facets of the human condition within life-size diorama cityscapes, reminiscent of war-time Italy, which are constructed entirely by the artist. By creating fictional worlds as stage design, the artist is able to physically inhabit the stories of his imagination. The viewer is then invited to the tableau vivant of Ventura’s urban characters which exist with the muted drama of silent films, each work balancing between charming playfulness and melancholic jest.
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 a selection of 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 collages (La Casa Rossa, 2019) featuring an anonymous cityscape where the character(s) seem to perpetually recede in significance 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 on view. The small diorama 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 international 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.