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Paolo Gioli: Anthropolaroid

October 1, 2018
Paolo Gioli, “Torace,” 2007, Polaroid 20×24 and Polaroid transfer print on silk, 21¾ x 27½ in. (55.5 x 70 cm). Collection of Paolo Vampa (artwork © Paolo Gioli)
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Paolo Gioli: Anthropolaroid
October 11–December 9, 2018
Curated by Peter Benson Miller
American Academy in Rome
AAR Gallery
Via Angelo Masina, 5, Rome, Italy

The American Academy in Rome presents Paolo Gioli: Anthropolaroid, a solo exhibition by Paolo Gioli curated by Peter Benson Miller. Opening October 11, the exhibition presents thirty Polaroid works, executed between 1978 and 2010, demonstrating not only the artist’s technical virtuosity with the medium, but also his profound meditations upon the human form and the fractured body politic.

To inaugurate the exhibition the artist will speak about his work in conversation with photography critic and historian Roberta Valtorta. One of the most respected specialists in Italian photography, Valtorta has collaborated with Gioli for many years. In 1996, Valtorta curated the retrospective dedicated to Gioli’s work held at the Palazzo degli Esposizioni in Rome. Most recently, she contributed an essay to the volume Paolo Gioli, Etruschi Polaroid 1984, published this year by Humboldt Books.

Since studying painting and the nude at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venice, Gioli has long been preoccupied with the human body. Like his experimental films, which establish “an essential analogy between celluloid and skin as the sensitive interface between the self and the outside world” (in Patrick Rumble’s phrase), Gioli’s Polaroid transfers use the body and its fragments as a means to interrogate photography’s history and theoretical foundations, as well as its dialogue with cinema, printmaking, sculpture, and painting.

After spending a year in New York in the late 1960s, Gioli was among the first artists to master Polaroid transfers following the introduction of SX-70 instant film in 1972. Since then, he has produced a wide range of formally complex works with the gelatin and dye layers of Polaroid emulsion. Using handmade pinhole cameras and alternative paper and silk supports, Gioli marries the most elemental procedures of early photography to a sophisticated use of the one-step film created by Edwin Land, co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. Among the many fruitful paradoxes of Gioli’s work is the way he creates timeless images by condensing a vast iconography into a spontaneous set of dexterous operations with instant film.

Like many great photographers and artists, particularly Americans, who explored the capabilities of Land’s instant films, Gioli’s experimentation pushed the material beyond the limits of what was considered possible. While Gioli may not have been fully embraced by Polaroid’s artist support program due to his unorthodox manipulation of the medium, his work has acquired new value and relevance in the digital age.

The accompanying, fully illustrated catalogue includes a text informed by a new interview with Gioli about his work and aspects of his process, as well as the artist’s essay “Anthropolaroid,” published in Italian in 1979 and translated into English here for the first time.

On October 23rd, in conjunction with the VIDEOCITTA’ festival, Paolo Gioli’s experimental films will be screened in the Lecture Room at the American Academy. Patrick Rumble, professor of Italian and Visual Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will present a selection of the artist’s films ranging in date from 1979 to 2013, and discuss the relationship between photography and cinema in Gioli’s work.