ALESSANDRO BAVARI

di Gigliola Foschi / ZOOM magazine (n. 184, maggio/giugno 2003)

"A hallucinatory, spatial jumble in which farfetched flowers and strange, Max Ernst-style vegetable beings proliferate. Or ghostly skyscrapers and grandiose architectural structures, highly immaginative desolate expanses and forests of saplings arranged Italian garden-style. A surreal triumph of metamorphic bodies and tiny beings that pop out of dark, evil-looking holes. An encyclopedia of disturbing polymorphic, Hindu-like figures waving their multiple arms.
Images that provoke half-picturesque, half-erotic sensations, both horrible and fantastic, constructed of an unlikely, yet perfect mix of Hieronymous Bosch, Jan Saudek, Alexander Jodorowski, Odilon Redon, Gustav Moreau, Joel-Peter Witkin, Caravaggio, Giotto and Bellmer.
A direct descendent of painters and photographers of the imaginary, Alessandro Bavari (who studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome and since age fifteen has been creating photomontages), prefers the hints originating in dreams and the unconscious rather than the real world—visionary representations rather than the illusion of the truth. He does not photograph reality, he brings to life a new reality.
A reality composed of jovial monstrosities and unbridled mythological symbolism transformed like a Baroque allegory and suspended somewhere between a Bosch-like past and Alien-style future (but much less terrifying), amidst visionary dreams cascading tangles of greenery à la Gustave Moreau and lush pleasures of the flesh.

"Sodoma e Gomorra - Un Reportage dalle Città Perdute" (Sodom and Gomorrah - Report from the Lost Cities) is the title of his new work, but it shouldn't conjure up lewd scenes of depravation and lust or even sulfurous gloom.
"I conceived of these two cities as a type of amusement park for visionaries in which my 'photographic eye' is neither reproachful nor benevolent, just amused and curious, ready to capture anything that presents itself. A huge freak show arranged with the geometric rationality of a manger scene, yet both kitschy and sophisticated at the same time. An opportunity to lose oneself and peek in on the intimate scenes of a daily existence that is as much metaphysical as it is a mélange, then finally get back on track only to get lost anew. In essence, I wanted people in Sodom and Gomorrah to be happy, creative and imaginative, right up to the day of the apocalypse in which the Almighty, annoyed by so much exuberance,decided to extend his immense black veil forever," writes the photographer in presentation of the exhibit of his work recently held at the Massenzio Arte e Photogallery in Rome.
Another major source of inspiration for this ingenious work was Italo Calvino's classic novel, Le Città Invisibili (Invisible Cities) in which the author, through the eyes of Marco Polo, describes to a melancholy Kubla Khan extraordinary cities suspended between the real and make-believe. In "Sodom and Gomorrah" we find echoes of Calvino's city of Tamara in which "the eye does not see things, but figures of things that mean other things", or Zirma, the city of redundance where
"things are repeated so that at least something remains fixed in the brain", or, finally, Zobeide "the white city with full exposure to the moon with streets that wind around each other, like a big ball of yarn." Just as Kublai Khan at a certain point stops listening to Marco Polo's tales because he is able to make up imaginary cities himself by mixing-and-matching their attributes, Bavari (following Calvino's lead), has invented two imaginary, dreamlike cities in which desire, unexpected fears,
misleading perspective and absurd rules all intertwine.

Theoretically all well and good, but how was Bavari able to create these architectural visions of part madness, part mythology, part delirium of the psyche and part amusement park using the "reality" of photography? While Witkin (the photographer his work most closely resembles) succeeds in creating his terrifying and perverse hybrids using traditional techniques working with the negative in the dark room, Bavari, who has also participated in numerous international animation and digital art festivals, makes use of complex digital editing techniques. "I modelled some obiects in Softimage 3D for insertion in the scene," he explains. "The landscape is from a shot I took some years ago in Costa Rica. And crowds of people are actually made up of some friends, who kindly agreed to pose for me."

Even the aged look of the paper, similar to that obtained by Witkin with positive and negative scratches and emulsifying the print with pure beeswax, was created by Bavari entirely with the use of the computer.
"To 'distance' the viewer from the fierce crudity of the photograph, I use a technique of layered 'patinas', the same technique used in oil painting with glazing in which successive, transparent layers of pitch and asphalt lend depth and distance to the image.
I don't think the use of this technique at the computer undermines its essence, it's just that technology gives us new tools for making art.
In fact, I am firmly convinced that if Leonardo da Vinci had had a computer, he would have used it," the artist states.

Alessandro Bavari is also not afraid of advanced technology because—like the more "established" Witkin—his works are not just empty experimentation. They are supported by a project and a profound knowledge of art history that penetrates into the very pores of his images without ever becoming mere virtuosity.

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