“In the late 1980s, I was fascinated by the metropolis of New York, Chinatown, Little Italy and Harlem, says Alessandro Valeri. The city seemed to me a mix of Victorian art, Art Deco and postwar urbanization. An absolutely crazy urban composition, halfway between wealth and poverty, with the beauty of the skyscrapers in stark contrast to the fanciness of the decrepit buildings in a state of neglect. I was fascinated by the intellectual fervor of the East Village and by American icons such as Bukowski, but above all by all those people who lived on the edge of reality who in some ways resembled the huge and semi-destroyed cars of the 70s, dented carcasses that consumed like sponges and still patrolling the streets.trade.”
“At the same time, however, I was also impressed by Andy Warhol's ability to communicate his ideas on mass marketing. His death in 1987 literally shocked me and it was then that I started working on a series of alternative views of New York, with the intent of showing the other side of the city, including the many places Warhol frequented. .hol.”
Since then Valeri has focused his lens on Alphabet City and the Meat Market, areas of New York at the time very dangerous and infamous to the point that some of his photographs were taken from the half-open window of a car. In doing so, Valeri managed to capture the surreal nature of the Surf Bar, a local venue with a sand-strewn floor and surfboards attached to the walls. He photographed the shop signs, the windows covered with wooden boards, the empty parking lots, the super-stocked liquor stores, the street vendors and the children playing in the street. These images of the social and architectural history of the 20th century, including those of the old Pan Am headquarters and that of the now demolished Colgate factory, are as emblematic as those portraying the chaotic traffic in Valeri's overview towards Hudosn , with Little Italy on the left and Chinatown on the right.a.
However, Valeri's work moves away from the principles of photo-journalism and archival reporting because, being less interested in the concept of representation, he focuses above all on the use of the photographic medium as a vehicle for transmitting emotions, watching more to the state of mind than to the subject of his photographs. The urban landscapes of his New York do not only and exclusively concern the city but want to convey the feeling of transformation, maintaining the balance between dirt and perfection.ne.
All this is also visible in the series of photographs that Valeri took at the end of the millennium during the Roman tour of the Circo Togni in December 1999. Living with the circus company for about a month, Valeri practically became part of the family and the photographs he took reveal a profound intimacy, trust and suspense. The faces of the trapeze artists, acrobats, clowns and the trainer are expressive and accomplices. Nothing is left to chance. caso.
“Backstage, they are all vulnerable. The place is dangerous, with animals roaming at their leisure, including a hippo, an elephant and a bison. The clown enters and the rhino comes out. Tension was a constant. Valeri placed himself on the border between two worlds, placing himself directly behind that curtain that separates the backstage from the circus track where the artists perform. And it is there, on this sort of gate where you pass from the more private dimension of the backstage to the public one that took his photos. foto.
“It was not so much the show itself that fascinated me when the atmosphere, the mood of the moments preceding the show, and their nomadic life. Valeri was struck above all by the powerful human motivations that are the basis of those numbers of strength and ability that he saw and experienced in the backstage and by the very strong bond that unites circus artists from many different countries. And as in the series of photographs of New York, these shots also capture a world that is disappearing. Many of the acrobatic numbers that we see in Valeri's work today are prohibited by law as they are considered too dangerous as many of the wild animals portrayed can no longer be used in circus performances.rcensi.
That of Valeri is a photograph that continually subverts the rules. Over the years, Valeri has created powerful portraits of models, actors, stylists, musicians and athletes, people who are generally comfortable in their bodies, sometimes knowingly exaggerating - the eroticism of symbolism. In Le Ali he portrayed the British supermodel Naomi Campbell as the avenging angel. Kneeling and naked, she looks back at those who look at her defiantly. The oversized wings of the Annunciation are blackened and threatening. With a diametrically opposite sign, La Rosa is an exaggeratedly romantic representation of Valentino Rossi, world champion in motorcycling. The red rose she holds between her teeth mimics the sensuality of her lips. Public figures like the previous two have been photographed thousands of times but Valeri projects a different look on his models. Here an underground and subtle battle is fought between the public icon and iconography.fia.
Many of Valeri's silver gelatin prints are blown out of proportion. In his most recent black and white shots, the human body becomes a landscape with hidden peaks and valleys. The reclining nudes become compositions in which deep shadows contaminate the light. The feminine curves are highlighted by gestural ivory brushes, with a consistency similar to that of eggnog. Some marks scratch the surface of the prints similar to scratches made by a panther's claws. Rembrandt's Reverse is a totemic image of Valeri that depicts the head of a man shown symmetrically and face up, evoking the minimalism of a skull. Through the use of light that examines the bones and the black of the features, the eye sockets and mouth become empty. This image is exaggeratedly enlarged and its size is literally explosive but it is not simply a portrait of a man. uomo.
“It highlights the shadows of communication, explains Alessandro Valeri. In this image, we only see the darkness of the eyes, nose and mouth and therefore can be defined as a portrait that depicts sight, breath and speech.ola.”
Reality and metaphor of cities, narration and instant of bodies that appear and disappear as if inside a puff of smoke, faces redefined through tribal signs, Alessandro Valeri's black and white photos create a language that differs from both the photographic and the the pictorial one, also contradicting the very concept of representation and narration.e.
In his case, language and method come together to stage part of a process that could continue indefinitely in each of his works. His subjects seem to become a pretext and an implicit model. The 80s neighborhoods of Andy Warhol's New York, as well as the bodies of women and men, become at the same time non-places, scenarios of disorientation, common panoramas typical of a human race accustomed to traveling the planet in both physical and virtual sense..
His photos, like the pictorial signs that redefine some traits, are born from the acquisition of a great technique that is regularly denied and deconstructed, a technique that ironically reveals its secrets and allows the images to unravel and recompose, to lose centrality, to flatten out or to explode. I believe that these are the main reasons that make his works so fascinating and close to our daily dimension, elusive yet intense, indefinite and pungent, oscillating between a small detail and an infinity. Alessandro Valeri tends to evoke a poetic dimension that is more dramatic in the sense of action - than lyrical, more filmic than static, as one would expect from two-dimensional works. And in fact the observer's eye flows ensnared by the circularity of the spiral, when it comes to bodies, and by the linearity of the streets or by the verticality of buildings, when it comes to urban contexts. In the absence of any digital intervention, the extreme quality of the print brings out countless shades, ranges of blacks, whites and grays. They attribute softness, tactility, three-dimensionality and evanescence to every single detail of the bodies, while conferring distinct materiality to the paved roads, the brick walls, the car bodies, the foggy and smog-laden atmospheres.iche di smog.
The contrast between lights and shadows is mostly homologated to the backgrounds and foregrounds and, in this case, it is very important to point out that it is the artist who decides what of a face or body belongs to the background, making it swallowing from the dark, and what belongs to the foreground, making the light redefine contours and shapes different from the objective reality and emerging from the whirlpool of darkness.urità.
Through the metaphor of these interventions, the author declares that each person, each being and everything gives only a part of themselves to their individuality, leaving everything else floating, undivided and sharing a dimension common to everyone and everything. The discourse regarding the faces and, precisely, the portraits in the foreground is different. In this case Alessandro Valeri manages to evoke the context to which the portrayed person belongs through the eyes and expression, like the intense gaze of an acrobat who seems to hypnotize a heterogeneous and noisy audience.o.
The dimensions of decontextualization and theatrical reinterpretation belong to the great portraits of stars such as Valentino Rossi and Naomi Campbell, characters alive in the collective imagination, but whom the artist transforms into residual symbols of a changing world.
In this personal exhibition of his at the PAN in Naples, all this blends. Alessandro Valeri, with a shaman's touch, evokes the sounds and movements of a great representation, where the works interact, distorting the relationships of space and time.