Cortesi Contemporary is pleased to present Ringflash, a solo exhibition by Edo Bertoglio.
For the first time, the Swiss photographer will be juxtaposing his historic project “Figurines” (1978-82), an extraordinary collection of portraits featuring iconic figures from the New York punk/new-wave scene, with the recent, never previously exhibited series “Ladies” (2010-11), made in Switzerland and dedicated instead to the charismatic natural intensity and self-awareness of ageless women from the present. As an infinitely multifaceted and intriguing survey of faces, Edo Bertoglio’s work in photography thus presents us with contrasting aesthetics and technologies, changing tools and approaches to photographic portraiture, representations and transformations of woman, blending the epoch-making with the archetypal, and historical documentation with autobiographical storytelling.
“Over 35 years have gone by, but his chosen subject remains the same. By observing the lineaments, expressions, and permutations of the female face, Edo Bertoglio has borne witness to his era and told his own story. In his portraits of young urban idols of the late Seventies and early Eighties, and later, in those of the more mature, self-aware women he has photographed in recent years, one finds a fascination with identity that has evolved through the stages of a life spent in Paris, London, and New York. It is a full immersion in the magic and mores of the different generations, cultures, and scenes that the Swiss-born photographer has documented in his pictures”, writes Mariuccia Casadio in her introduction to the catalogue.
The faces that have posed for Edo Bertoglio’s camera include many which helped shape a piece of New York history, in the era of the city’s greatest artistic and cultural splendor. Bertoglio mounted a ring flash on his Hasselblad, and between ’77 and ’82, from the roof of his loft at Broadway and Bleecker, made the series “Figurines”, whose fully illuminated subjects seem almost physically dematerialized. Erasing the details and flaws of the face, this technique transforms the women into cartoon characters.
The “Ladies” series, taken in Switzerland over twenty years after his return from New York, shows a clear shift in style. Here the women become sculptural busts, devoid of ornament. The grain of their skin, which is completely free of makeup, shows the marks of an existential universe. These portraits, set against a white background, focus on the investigation of form, in an atmosphere of presence and absence, of alternation between dialogue and silence.
These photographs are striking for their aesthetic beauty and meticulous composition, with the serial nature of the portraits yielding symmetries that lead back to the concept found in the catalogue. “And while on the one hand, they remind us just what a fundamental role faces have played in art, fashion, film, and in the conception of periodicals founded since the middle of the twentieth century, on the other, they describe a personal obsession and path of exploration that Edo Bertoglio has carried into the present, contrasting the dark, smoky-eyed, picturesque eccentricity of his early models with the sunny, natural, almost bare faces of his “Ladies”, their hair pulled back, standing out against very light backgrounds, like kores who have entered a more adult and definitely less adventurous time of life, but which unquestionably has its own charismatic and catalyzing beauty”.
Edo Bertoglio was born in 1951 in Lugano, Switzerland. After earning his degree in film direction and editing from the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma Français in Paris, he moved first to London, and then in 1976 to New York, where he remained for fourteen years. He worked as a staff photographer for Andy Warhol’s Interview, documenting the artistic and musical life of figures from the downtown scene of the Seventies and Eighties such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Deborah Harry, and John Lurie, and his pictures appeared in the leading fashion, music, art and pop culture magazines. He directed the films Downtown 81 and Face Addict. He moved back to Lugano in 1990, where he continues to work as a photographer and documentary filmmaker.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Mousse, with an essay by Mariuccia Casadio.