From 7 October to 13 November 2016 the Spazio Zero at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo will host a solo exhibition of the work of Carlo Benvenuto (Stresa, 1966), who will present a set of new works – produced especially for the occasion – that portray everyday objects on a 1:1 scale.
They are still lifes of different sizes, all inspired by estrangement, metaphysics and the suspension of reality, which provoke a reaction in the observer similar to the moods of the stories of Raymond Carver, where the customary and quotidian becomes something different, covertly threatening, waiting for something to happen.
Benvenuto’s works are created using traditional chemical negatives, without the use of digital technology either in the shooting or post-production stages, and without retouching. The artist employs light as colour and space as design, to give “body and substance to a conceived image, a mental abstraction, in the attempt to free it from the weight of reality”.
The three larger works in the exhibition (225×170 cm, all from 2016) were created by superposing several shots on the same negative, a technique that creates a dynamic similar to that of classic painting.
These three works have the same subject: a table viewed frontally and perfectly aligned with the horizontal of the floor-wall meeting point, which becomes the setting for different experiments. In the first, the composition of a bowl of fruit on the table is illuminated by a ruby-red light to the point of overexposure, while the setting inconsistently remains unaffected by the colour. The red is absolute, the safety colour in a darkroom, the colour of the “interior of bodies and things”.
In the second work, the procedure is inverted and it is the setting that is coloured red, while the fruit remains resistant to the colour. Like in compositions of magical realism, a visiting card is placed among the fruits on which the artist’s signature – “Benvenuto” – is both a handwritten signature and a message of welcome.
In the third work, a black, mysterious pineapple appears like an African sculpture in a colour photograph that, oddly, simulates being taken in black and white.
A smaller work (67×122 cm) shows a still life with bottle and a bowl that makes direct reference to a certain form of metaphysical or post-Cubist painting, in which the rigidity of the structure and starkness of the colours renders this, the simplest of compositions, unreal and absolute. This aesthetic suspension is also achieved by superposing several shots so as to avoid simply depicting the details, shadows and slavishly copied description of the elements in the composition.
Flowers are the main elements in three other works. In one (60×60 cm) we see dried flowers, the same ones that Benvenuto photographed fresh in 2010. These ones, today like in the past, stand upright and are protected and kept separate by the sticky tape, which is both a new addition for this exhibition and the original tape used for the photograph in 2010. To this is added a bright red spot, a small flower that has fallen.
The exhibition continues with two diptyches. The first (63×58 cm) shows a De Chirico-like biscuit resting on a white tablecloth on the very edge of the table. The pictorial aspect of the sfumaturagoes so far as to render ambiguous the distinction between photography and painting. The composition is held together by the green and red of the cherry in the middle of the biscuit.
In the second (68×68 cm) the serene, dusty sfumatura of china cups is disturbed by the scarlet shriek of a candied cherry, at first solitary, later accompanied by a bunch of carnations in the transparent embrace of sticky tape.
Two works complete the presentation: three Murano glasses sculpted as though they were filled to the brim with water, so full that we are convinced to approach them cautiously as though it were impossible not to knock them over, and a series of drawings made using Bic biros in black, blue, red and green. As in photography, in drawing the creation of a sign is definitive, a little like the exposure of negatives to light: “once they have been exposed to light, you can only accept them or dispose of them completely”.
Thanks to these works, visitors are invited to observe the everyday objects in our lives from a different perspective, as though they are being seen for the first time. Carlo Benvenuto’s works stem from the idea of preventing the decay of his objects, attempting to preserve them unaltered in colour and form, and deny them being subject to the laws of nature. Here they are fixed in a state of false life, an illusory eternity.
Catalogue GAMeC Books.
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