Carlo Benvenuto, Untitled, 2013, C-print, 72 3/4 x 63".

Carlo Benvenuto, Untitled, 2013, C-print, 72 3/4 x 63".

Carlo Benvenuto

Galleria Suzy Shammah

Carlo Benvenuto, Untitled, 2013, C-print, 72 3/4 x 63".

Carlo Benvenuto has never strayed from his chosen way of working, which begins with his decision to photograph only everyday objects, found at home, and to present them at full scale, frontally and centered. The new photographic works—along with some small drawings and small sculptures—in his recent show inspired by Henri Matisse’s The Red Studio, 1911, find him continuing to adhere to this rigorous approach. In the famous painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the red color saturates the space of the large canvas, which becomes a decorative plane, absorbing the objects contained within it and dissolving them. Likewise, in four of the photographs in this show (all of them Untitled, 2013), Benvenuto uses a dominant red as a filter to annul any indications of perspective and to accentuate the “presence” of the image. Following Matisse’s example,

Benvenuto compresses three dimensions into two, eliminating the distinction between surface and space, object and background. In three of the four photographs in the key of red, the objects are camouflaged by the floral fabric of the backdrop; the decoration of the cloth expands into the ornamental design of a small cup and is reflected in the mirrored surface of a small fruit bowl or a steel-pedestal dessert dish. The red patina unifies all the elements of the field, as if they were behind a screen, but at the same time it also enhances them, making the objects appear illuminated in the darkness, captured by infrared rays.

Benvenuto’s concern is with vision—how and what we see. For this reason, he poses visual questions and presents optical tricks as tools for penetrating appearances, going beyond the material evidence of the object. A metal fruit bowl—the subject of four small photographs—rests against a vaguely reflective surface. Sometimes it is alone, sometimes it has a companion. But which are the images that are really of two bowls, and in which is one merely a reflection? In two photos, one of which belongs to the four works in red, a pedestal fruit dish rests on a table, the far edge of which corresponds perfectly with the line dividing the floor from the wall, collapsing the ostensible background with the surface of the two-dimensional plane. These images are created by superimposing two shots on the same negative, focusing first on the fruit and then on the table. This is why the fruit seems not precisely in the right place, giving an effect of temporal displacement. The light is natural, but so clear that it appears artificial.

Benvenuto is not interested in the prosaic nature of objects, in their contingency, or in their narrative possibilities. His objects are extracted from the flow of life and relocated in an atemporal dimension, even when different spaces and times coexist. The artist does not change the scale of the objects he photographs, and compositional variations are minimal. Significant structures are reduced, details eliminated, and the image shorn of the superfluous. The object appears as what it is, but in this hyperobjectivity becomes metaphysical. Stripped of its familiar use and of any signs of subjectivity, the object becomes a presence that holds within itself all possible projections. Things are absolutes and their silent and indifferent passivity becomes eloquent.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.