Long a favourite among trend-seeking Florentines and internationals, Gallery Hotel Art, part of Italian hospitality group Lungarno Collection, is known as much as its superb food and drink offering as for its exhibitions. Some are shouty (thinking back to Simone D’Auria’s spoons, bikes and windmills on the façade in previous years), others are more subtle in their approach. Roberto Patella’s Volatility of Being photographic show in the lobby and library is firmly in the second category: calm, collected and introspective, with the tiniest touch of ostentatiousness.
Curated by Valentina Ciarallo based on a project by Mario Rescio, the New York- and Milan-based American photographer of Italian origins is best known for his collaborations with leading names in the fashion world. After working along legendary photographer and director Bruce Weber, Patella has portrayed artists and celebrities such as Kevin Bacon, Chuck Close and Elizabeth Nyamayaro, as well as Mäneskin for magazines like Elle, Vanity Fair and Numèro. When he’s not snapping stars, he concentrates on his own rich personal production, whereby he reflects on the concept of the physical body as a definition of human experience. Through interacting with inanimate objects, Patella weaves intimate narratives, where he tells stories of things and people and the relationship that develops between them. In a dialogue between photography and sculpture, the subjects, meticulously created and visually isolated, speak a universal language in which the bodily dimension meets the spiritual one in a union between form and essence.
The Florentine spoke with Roberto Patella ahead of the vernissage at Gallery Hotel Art.
What does it mean to be showing in a place like Florence?
I lived here when I was 20 and I was studying at the university. When I first came to Florence, my idea was to be in the city where art began. My main form of expression was photography and I gained a lot of my inspiration from Renaissance art, so my work ends up being quite classical. I actually picked up a camera for the first time when I was living here. I ended up applying for a study grant and I won the scholarship. My proposal was to document the city of Florence and what was happening. At that time there were problems with garbage, so I thought it created an interesting urban landscape in a place that’s so classical and architectural. Having received the grant, I actually had to get a camera. Now I’m playing with the descriptive elements of the media like time, focus, framing and the dimensionality more consciously than I was before. Previously I was a young artist understanding the ways of the world and exploring my self-expression. Now I’m more consciously playing with the descriptive qualities that defines the medium. It’s a real honor to be back in Florence.
This is an intimate exhibition on very different levels. You’re renowned for working with celebrities, so how does this feel to you?
These are quieter moments for sure. They are moments I spent by myself with my subject. I like to take this and apply it to when I’m working with the figures that we see on TV and use their voice to say something to the world. This exhibition feels like my voice. When I’m working by myself, it’s my point of view. When I’m collaborating with someone, it becomes multi-dimensional. There are different personas that I embody when working in different contexts. These photographs are really me, my reality and certainty of being. The only thing that exists is that precise moment, and that’s what I’m trying to capture.
Roberto Patella: The Volatility of Being will continue at Gallery Hotel Art (vicolo dell’Oro 5) until September.