Here we have a kiss that looks strangely familiar, and for a good reason. In photography, it is hard to move past the legacy of Robert Doisneau and his famous “Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville.” Ventura’s kiss, however, runs almost counter to Doisneau’s romantic ode to love, now become cliché, because the lovers are surrounded by drab grey walls and the darkness of an eclipse.
Solar Eclipse is the title of this photographic collage crafted by the artist in 2017 using his own special method: he first creates painted cardboard backgrounds which then serve as the décor to the staged scene. Once the photographic print is made, Ventura paints it over to produce a photo-painting, both through his technique and the creation of a tableau vivant. He has thus invented a new genre, consisting in the enactment, through the use of costumes and stage sets, of a still representation. Against a bleak postwar background, the lovers, frozen in an embrace, are forever replaying the scene of their encounter. Staged, photographed, and painted over, the work becomes a multilayered, allusive mise-en-abime.
All the photographic indices rise here to the surface and complement one another, underscoring the subtlety of Ventura’s carefully thought-out mises-en-scène. The cinematic kiss is reflected in the neon sign signaling a site that is home to such visions, while the scene itself, a priori joyous, takes place in the darkness of a solar eclipse—or is in the artificial eclipse of a movie theater? The choice of the scenario is, ultimately, up to the viewer, whom Ventura elegantly promotes from spectator to film director.
By Anne Laurens
An Invented World, Paolo Ventura
January 18 to March 14, 2020
Galerie XII Los Angeles
6150 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048, États-Unis