Paolo Roversi | Doubts
By Ashley Yu
From Dior to Comme des Garçons, the fashion realm is where the prolific Paolo Roversi has flourished. He often returns to classic compositional techniques, in an elegant synthesis of fine art and commercial photography. Roversi’s oeuvre spans decades, having nearly trademarked the 8 x 10 film and Polaroids before a necessary transition to the digital camera. His monochromatic portraits are often marked by a grainy background, long exposure, and an ethereal use of natural light to create an acute sense of intimacy between the viewer and a myriad of gorgeous women--unmediated by the camera’s presence, yet somehow omnipresent. His exhibition Doubts at the Pace/MacGill Gallery is the visual manifestation of his creative philosophy; of the latent vitality that dwells beneath each of his photographs in his search for beauty.
His photographs are bold understatements, unreliant on the mainstream method of gaudy colour splashes to capture the stunning models. “Every picture,” explains Roversi in his artist’s statement, “like everyone’s life, contains in itself the lingering promises of what it could have been--like a sort of subconscious.” Indeed, there is a recurring feeling of contingency, of capturing the subject mid-motion as it just so happens to be. In an image from 2016, the model Alexandra stands in profile, decked in an elaborate avant-garde outfit and hairstyle. Her foot is poised dancer-esque or as if mid-stride. This image is taken in Roversi’s signature style of a grainy grey background, cool-toned colour palette and diffused light that usually highlights the beauty of his subjects. With his deliberate use of motion blur, the particularly striking photograph becomes more than simply an image of a pretty face for the fashion industry. The model is an embodiment of contingent “lingering promises.” The centre of focus becomes the blue and burgundy floral pattern of the model’s clothing, instead of Alexandra’s elegant features. It is an example of Roversi’s fashion photography that is infused with the classical artistic technique of manipulating visual depth.
In a relatively more personal image from 2004, he once again toys with the viewer’s visual focus in the merging of the model’s face from two different perspectives. She stands nude in the middle of the photo, an uncontested figure of demure allure, like a majority of his photographic subjects. The viewer’s eye traces the length of her arm, from her hand covering her crotch, up the naked torso to meet the dual face of Janus that sees both past and future. This photograph is the convergence of all that “could have been” and his doubts for all the possible visual outcomes that thrive in his works and therein lies the beauty of it all.
Roversi’s current exhibition is an inquiry to the potential of duality in photographs and of underlying vitality beneath the veneer of the many beautiful faces that connect and seep through his subtly enigmatic photography.
“Paolo Roversi | Doubts” is exhibited at the Pace/MacGill Gallery on 57th Street, New York, from February 14th 2019 to March 23rd 2019.