“Imaginary Tales,” which runs from Wednesday until July 29, is comprised of about 100 works ranging from photographs and paintings to set designs that revisit reality with a fairy-tale, dream-like streak.
“I photograph what does not exist and I have been integrating painting and photography over the past two to three years, creating imaginary worlds,” Ventura said during a preview on Wednesday. “Photography leads you to believe it is real, but I play on ambiguity.”
For example, “The Automaton” is a work inspired by a 16th-century Dutch tale passed on to Ventura as a child from his father, but the artist decided to set the narrative in the gloomy atmosphere of the 1943 evacuation of the Venetian ghetto. Ventura re-created Venice with small cardboard and wood sets and figurines, photographing each scene and conveying the illusion of a true reproduction of the Italian city, always with his staple melancholic touch.
“With the arrival of the digital technology, photography no longer is obliged to represent our society and reality, because they can be altered, so I have been integrating photography with painting,” explained the artist, who showed three large works created for Silos titled “The Shell Seeker,” which blend the two arts. Ventura does not use digital cameras.
He said the meeting with Armani was “exciting, knowing what he represents for Milan and I am Milanese. I remember when in the Eighties I would go to school and see his large murales [billboard in the Brera district]. That was very unusual at the time.”
Ventura said Silos was “the perfect place” for his art, since his color palette is aligned with that of the venue — mainly gray and brown, with touches of yellow, black and white. “I work with modules and they are perfectly integrated here. The walls almost look like they’ve been painted over after the works were put on display, and it all seems familiar to me,” marveled Ventura with a smile.
It was this unusual dimension of reality and imagination that appealed to Armani and that draws viewers in. “I’ve observed Paolo Ventura’s works with much interest and have been fascinated by the narrative power of his creations, and his ability to transform evocative, imaginary landscapes into photographs,” the designer said.
Ventura, who has a twin brother, often focuses on the theme of identity, displacement and roots.
This original exhibition also displays paper installations made of cutouts that narrate three 3-D stories. One is dedicated to Napoleon’s Russian campaign and observers can see that each of the 350 soldiers is actually Ventura, who painted over his photographs to be disguised in different ways.
“The Vanishing Man,” directed in 2014 by Erik van Empel, will be screened as a documentary on Ventura’s life and works.
The Milan-born Ventura has worked as a photographer of fashion, design and landscapes. He subsequently moved to New York and decided to abandon commercial photography. In a small studio in Brooklyn, he built dioramas on the theme of World War II. His work has also included the creation of sets and costumes for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Turin’s Teatro Regio.
Last year, the sleek and minimalist Armani/Silos space displayed Larry Fink’s striking black-and-white photos in the exhibition “The Beats and the Vanities, Larry Fink.”
This followed the photo exhibition called “Emotions of the Athletic Body” that displayed images by the likes of Aldo Fallai, Kurt and Weston Markus, Tom Munro, David Sims and Richard Phibbs.