Carlo Mollino (1905-1973) is perhaps best known as the Italian architect who famously merged a variety of styles throughout the mid twentieth century to create what has become known as the “Turinese baroque” by mixing elements of Surrealism, Art Nouveau, Futurism, ancient mythology, and a passion for the female form into his architectural practice. His career was expansive in its diversity, including not only the practice of architecture but also that of furniture design, automobiles, aircrafts and writings on topics ranging from photography to skiing.
However what is perhaps most interesting about Mollino besides from his ability to master so many different forms of cultural practice was the discovery of a vast collection of over 1,000 polaroids found after his death of women in erotic stages of undress in gorgeously lit and nostalgic spaces taken in secret.
He obsessively produced hundreds of his images of women from the 1930s onwards, fascinated by new photographic techniques, Mollino switched to a Polaroid camera in 1963, when his images became more sexually explicit. He conceived each one as an erotic fantasy and dictated every detail: directing the models (most of whom he had hired for the purpose and only photographed once) as well as designing the clothes, sets, wigs, accessories, props and garçonnières, creating the most perfect encapsulation of his fantasies. Finally, having printed the Polaroids, Mollino would painstakingly amend them with an extremely fine brush, to attain his idealized vision of the female form.
The New Yorker declared, “This lavish selection of several hundred Polaroids preserves the essential mystery of a project both decadent and hermetic. Though clearly the product of a deep obsession, the photographs are deliberately impersonal, each baroque detail an invitation for the viewer to imagine Mollino’s encounters with the women.”
The women that Mollino has captured all pursue a kind of impossible Italian romanticism and nostalgia where their powerful awareness of their own sexuality mixed with the falsity of the setting that the photographer has created gives the images a timelessness which is possibly what makes them so attractive to the viewer.
The Gagosian will be exhibiting a selection of Mollino’s polaroids until the 20th of December.
Gagosian New York, in collaboration with Museo Casa Mollino, Turin
976 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075