Paul Kasmin Gallery presents the debut of a selection of Robert Polidori’s large-scale color photographs of the frescoes of Fra Angelico (1395-1455) contained in the Dominican priory of San Marco in Florence.
In the canon of art history, these works, executed in the birthplace of the Renaissance, give us a full sense of the period’s renewed commitment to the life of the spirit. Polidori visited the Convento di San Marco several times over the course of 2010 to capture the solemnity and sheer force of the frescoes and their reflection, through the depiction of the life of Christ, of the universal condition of mankind.
The frescoes, painted by Fra Angelico between 1439 and 1444 for purposes of devotion and contemplation, extend beyond literal storytelling. They shift into the metaphysical realm, bringing the viewer into contact with the incidents of the life of Christ in the context of a newborn psychological and subjective interpretation. In this altered manner of worship lies the root of the changes in faith and understanding that were to follow during the span of the reawakening that we know as the Renaissance.
As in much of the artist’s previous work, including photographs taken in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Iran and India, and in particular his work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Polidori is exploring a closely observed subject: the situation of humanity in the face of the overwhelming power of nature and time and a search for the universal.
The invitation to photograph the frescoes within the Convento di San Marco, as well as the building itself (renovated at the time of Fra Angelico by the patron of the Dominican order, Cosimo de Medici) was a fitting project for Polidori, who believes that rooms act as vessels of memory. Since the 1980s, he has been involved in an ongoing study of the decades-long restoration of the Chateau de Versailles and had previously turned his eye on war-torn Beirut, the devastated landscape of New Orleans and the faded splendor of Havana. By capturing scenes of wreckage, restoration and grandeur uninhabited by human figures, Polidori brings us into communication with the echoes of history that resonate in architecture. These works evoke the inexorable forward thrust of time and its power to reduce people, buildings and civilizations to dust and ruin.
Robert Polidori (b. 1951) has published over fifteen monographs, most recently Hotel Petra and the scroll-like book entitled 60 Feet Road (Bhatiya Nagar Facades), which presents an unbroken panoramic photograph of a single block in the city of Mumbai.
Over the course of his career, Polidori has 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. Through the end of May 2018, the Getty Museum is showing a body of his 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.