Paolo Gioli, Peep-Hole, Milan

The cessation of activity, in 2008, by the Polaroid Corporation, and thus the gradual unavailability of the material with which Paolo Gioli (b.1942) has experimented in various phases of the arc of his creative development, marks the close of a crucial period in the history of “technical reproduction” or even the end. Since the 1960s Paolo Gioli has conducted complex research on the genesis of images, the nature of aesthetic experience and the functioning of visual processes.

In Milan, into the non-profit Peep-Hole spaces, are actually shown relevant series such as the Naturae, the Fotofinish and the Autoanatomie. Frequently renowned works, including some paintings and drawings made in the 1960s in an itinerary focused on finding the structure of an image consistency.

More generally speaking, once affirmed the artist, my way of working on the body comes from photography. I have never perceived it in an erotic or aesthetic way, if in some works the body appears to be erotic it is because it already was to begin with. On the other hand, every one of us stood against a wall with a diffused light, relaxed, looks awful. And three-quarters of my images are shot without lenses, just with a pinhole camera. It’s not simple: all the effort made in photographic technique in order to put in a viewfinder in order to see, control the shot, focus, is denied through this choice.

The obsessive repetition of the same visual act, that echoes the older procedures typical of more archaic scientific or police photography, resolves itself, at least at first sight, in an effect of difference/repetition that renders extreme and intrinsically paradoxical the seriality of his recurring operations. A seriality, that, moreover, as we will see, Gioli rejects categorically. Each photograph can in fact be understood at the same time as a unique, unreproducible object. Also because each Polaroid is so by definition, even more so when artisanal photographic techniques or even painted photographic ones are applied to it, becoming as an element of a more articulated textual structure.

Inside Peep-hole eight rooms, his solo exhibition develops technical and linguistic experimentation. It introduces works dating from the 1960s to the late 2000s, representing the foundation nuclei and the recurring themes of the output of Paolo Gioli. A selection that underlines an interdisciplinary repositioning. Here is artistic practice blends different forms of expression, from drawing to painting, film to photography, producing ongoing contamination that uses operations derived from cinema for photographic ends, and a pictorial approach to the use of materials and surfaces.

In the very first room, which represents a real poetic declaration, Gioli matches series as Vessazioni (Abuses, 2007), where the artist’s action seems to torment chests and limbs of martyred bodies, with paintings like Grande nudo coricato sul lato destro (Large nude reclining on right side, 1965) and Cristo morto (Dead Christ, 1965), finally exploring a physical deconstruction of human flesh through series of large charcoal drawings on paper titled 1° Gruppo delle Creature (1st Group of Creatures) he realized in 1962-63.

In just a hundred of squared meters, oil paintings with inserts of photographic paper (Schermo-Schermo, 1974) come in succession with large oils on canvas all featuring extreme polychromatic effects, anticipating the group of the Figure dissolute (Dissolute Figures) dating back to the 1970s, and that of the Volti attraverso (Faces Across) made from 1987 to 2002. The intense, substantial solo show eventually ends with an homage to Julia Margaret Cameron, the English photographer famous for her evanescent portraits conveying the dreamy atmosphere of the Victorian era, and the dedicated series, titled Cameron Obscura (1981).

Even though this series could not represent a determined end to Gioli’s practice, the exhibition holds in high regard, peculiarly, how he converted to photo-chemical support materials, photography and the cinema towards the end of the 1960s, after a trip to the US during the course of which he would discover the New American Cinema and the turmoil of American Counter-Culture in the university context.

Ginevra Bria

Paolo Gioli ran from 10 April – 28 May at Peep-Hole.

For more information

1. Paolo Gioli Vessazioni (Abuses), 2007, Polaroid 20×24’’ and transfers on acrylic, lens photograph
2. Paolo Gioli Installation view at Peep-Hole, 2016 Volti attraverso (Faces Across), 1987-2002, photo finish, black and white print. Photo ©2016 Andrea Rossetti
3. Paolo Gioli Volti attraverso (Faces Across), 1987-2002, photo finish, black and white print. 
4. Paolo Gioli Sconosciuti (Unknowns), 1994, black and white print
5.  Paolo Gioli Installation view at Peep-Hole, 2016. From left: Eakins/Marey – L’uomo scomposto (Eakins/Marey – The decomposed man), 1982, Polaroid Polacolor type 59, silk, pencil  paper, Cameron Obscura, 1981, Polaroid Polacolor type 89, silk, pencil, paper, Omaggio a Nièpce (Homage to Nièpce), 1983-89, Polaroid Polacolor type 88 and type 89, on paper. Photo ©2016 Andrea Rossetti