“On fragile sheets, between one pulping and another of today’s ephemeral life of paper, I encounter photographs, concrete poetry that ferries me into the domain of the ineffable as much as a consecrated painting or other canonical art form; these photographs being ‘personal documents’ or fantasies of an impossible daily life.”
Carlo Mollino, Message from the Darkroom, 1949
On the occasion of the exhibition Paolo Colombo with Carlo Mollino currently on show in Rossinière, Switzerland we bring you an online exclusive presentation devoted to Carlo Mollino's famous polaroids.
In a career that spanned more than four decades, renowned architect and designer Carlo Mollino (1905-1973) worked on buildings, furniture, interiors, cars, scenic sets and more. Alongside this multifaceted creative output Mollino also made numerous photographic works, and in 1949 published Message from the Darkroom, a treatise and critical study on photography.
The Polaroid images of female models highlighted here, which are now considered to form a significant part of his oeuvre were produced in his Turin studio during the last 14 years of his life. His models, who were mostly dancers, would pose against extraordinary and meticulously put together backdrops, designed by Mollino, in clothing, wigs and accessories that he had also carefully selected himself. It is said that after printing the Polaroids, Mollino would painstakingly amend them with an extremely fine brush, to reach his desired outcome.
These prints remained a secret until after Mollino’s death in 1973. Reading through their known history, brought to us largely by Fulvio Ferrari, the founder of the Casa Mollino museum in Turin, one concludes that being able to look at them today is part accident, part the result of the painstaking efforts of the latter, who has spent the better part of the last three decades synthesising the various fragments of information that relate to the polaroids and their place within Mollino's practice.
We learn from Ferrari that a large number of Polaroids and probably also photographic prints considered scandalous and pornographic, ended up taking the road to the rubbish dump. Only a number of images managed to escape destruction by being mounted on cardboard pages and collected in exquisitely made albums. The albums were stripped of their “unpresentable” contents which fortunately ended up in a shoebox which is where Ferrari found them in 1984.
“It is a difficult oeuvre” photographer Paul Kooiker says to Erik Viskil in an interview included in the Carlo Mollino Photographs 1934-1973 catalogue. “At first sight it might seem rather superficial, mildly erotic, but the longer you focus on it, the more intriguing it is. Erotic photos usually unveil their secrets quickly and that’s it. But this oeuvre becomes more and more interesting as time goes on.”
“The work is a combination of clothes, background, light, model, and in all those facets there is a tremendous refinement. You can see from the photos that he loved technique, all aspects of photography, the camera, lighting, staging. His work is at least as much about the medium of photography as about the subject.”
“…Mollino was obsessed with perfection, and photography certainly provided him with an opportunity to address this urgent need. Thanks to one of its fundamental characteristics: its repeatability. Not of the ‘decisive moment’, which is by definition unrepeatable, but the take. Mollino pressed the shutter button again and again. He wasn’t satisfied with just one shot of a subject (whatever it was: buildings, interiors, women, aeroplanes…). He would take another, and then yet another; changing all the possible variables in a continual process of approximation in the search for an ideal that evidently remained unreachable.”
Francesco Zanot "Carlo Mollino Fake Document" in Carlo Mollino Photographs 1934-1973, p.34
The exhibition Paolo Colombo with Carlo Mollino will be accompanied by a limited edition catalogue published by Marc Jancou Contemporary.
For more information and to pre-order, please contact: