Streamers hang from a string of lanterns and confetti is peppered about the floor, along with balloons that have lost their umph. Be careful that you don't step on the sword that also rests on the floor. Did someone leave it there or was it thrown there? Circled about are chairs, as though people had been talking and on one chair rests a large head-mask, mustached and staring only where it can stare. The mask will return in another photograph by Paolo Ventura, as well as the sword, but in this photo, titled "2:00 a.m." the mask and sword and the room itself are at rest. The party is over, the space has been cleared, and the piano waits for people to play it once again.
The photographs of Paolo Ventura are of miniature sets that he constructs. The old man and I first came across his work in the latest issue of Harper's and you can see the portfolio here. Ventura's work is not miniature but of miniature. His sets boldly have people, circus performers or just people in their hats and coats walking down the street, not that that's that bold, but the figures themselves look like old dolls or toys that look like people. There's a new grit being explored in these sets... the clown with the dirty gloves, the sword swallower performing on a dirty stage to no one, the soiled-apron waiter looking out the window of an empty restaurant. There's always a feeling of departure, someone heading home, someone dressed up in a bird mask with no one around to see, a figure who holds a brief case and looks through a gate. (The soundtrack here coming from the gritty musicianship including the likes of Sunset Rubdown, Department of Eagles, Phoenix, and Grizzly Bear. Maybe Beirut. Maybe Devotchka.)
Ventura's work reminds me of lonely afternoons of Sicilian siesta, when everyone would drop everything, eat a huge lunch followed by a nap. The only people out were the leather bracelet makers from Africa, the drunk flip-flop salesman, or the occasional mother rocking a restless child. It was so quiet you could drag a stick on a wall and no one would tell you to stop. You could peak in someone's window and see something similar to "Table for Four," stacked dirty dishes, crumbs everywhere, empty bottles of wine, a pan with grease waiting to be scrubbed, the smell of pasta lingering.
Paolo Ventura was born in Milan but now lives in New York. His collection of photographs entitled Winter Stories accompanies me sick in bed today. I will flip and flip and flip through them, piecing the stories together, noting the footsteps or tire tracks in the sooty snow. He has a show here in the city pretty soon. Come with me when I'm all better?