Kasmin exhibits Robert Polidori's photographs of the ancient frescoes found among the ruins of Pompeii
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Kasmin exhibits Robert Polidori's photographs of the ancient frescoes found among the ruins of Pompeii
Installation view.

NEW YORK, NY.- A new exhibition by Robert Polidori presents the artist’s large-scale color photographs of the ancient frescoes found among the ruins of Pompeii, Italy. Taken in 2017 and exhibited in North America for the first time, the works continue Polidori’s lifelong investigation into the spiritual and psychological resonance of architecture and interior spaces. The exhibition is on view at 297 Tenth Avenue in New York from April 22 to May 15, 2021.

Depicted in many of the works in the series is the Villa dei Misteri, a well-preserved dwelling on the outskirts of the city famous for its exquisite frescoes clustered in one room. These artworks, originating from 70-60 BC and restored between 2013-15, are among the best known of the relatively rare survivals of Ancient Roman painting and are understood to portray the rites of a young woman as she is inducted into the mystical cult of Bacchus. Polidori has since remarked upon the aesthetic continuity between the pagan rituals represented in the Pompeii murals, and the Christian imagery that defines the frescoes of Fra Angelico, a previous subject of the artist. While our cultures and rituals transform, the iconographic representational style remains remarkably consistent.

Utilizing a large-format camera and employing exposures of up to five minutes in natural light, Polidori is able to produce intricately detailed images at scale. As he explores rooms as metaphors for states of being, what at first might be mistaken for elaborate decorative motifs, painted to adorn a wealthy family’s accommodation, are revealed by Polidori to be imbued with a deeper force, acting as iterations of memory systems for whole cultures. Acting as a medium, Polidori reveals to us these interlacing layers of the past.

The Roman city of Pompeii, which lies at the foot of the volcanic Mount Vesuvius, has been largely preserved in ash since its eruption in 79 AD, and has been the site of excavation from 1909 onwards. Polidori photographed these in 2017.

This is Polidori’s third exhibition at Kasmin. The widely acclaimed photographer is most immediately recognized for his career-spanning work at the Château de Versailles, as well as his photographs of the fading grandeur of Havana and the devastating destruction of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His “Dendritic Cities” captures the rampant and spectacular growth that has appeared in the last decades in cities such as Amman, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. Photographs from Hotel Petra illustrate how human interventions and the passing of time are inscribed on the surfaces of walls, and the rooms themselves bear witness to their history. His most recent photographs from the Convento di San Marco in Florence capture the solemnity and sheer force of the 15th Century frescoes by Fra Angelico.

In 2020, Polidori was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also received the World Press Award (1998) and, twice, the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography (1999 and 2000). He has had major solo exhibitions throughout the world, including the record-breaking show, New Orleans After the Flood, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2006. From 2017-18, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles exhibited a body of the artist's photographs commissioned by The New Yorker at the time of the museum’s opening in 1997.

Polidori’s photographs are held in numerous collections: the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Polidori lives and works in Ojai, California.

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