Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to present Natura Morta, Paulette Tavormina's first solo exhibition with the gallery. Natura Morta will bring together a selection of exquisite still life photographs that recall the traditions of 17th century Old Master painting. Luscious fruit and flowers among other things are rendered in a painterly perspective reminiscent of Francisco de Zurbaran, Adriaen Coorte and Giovanna Garzoni, whom Tavormina counts among her greatest influences.
An avid collector of butterflies and insects, shells, dried flowers, and ceramics, the sourcing of props is a crucial part of her process. Each object is closely tied to the place it was discovered — fresh produce from a New York City farmer's market, horseshoe crabs tossed ashore in Nantucket, ladybugs found at a taxidermy shop in Paris. Not only do these objects look to the art historical roots of the genre of the still life, but their meaning is often multi-layered, a fig perhaps referring to the artist's own Sicilian heritage.
Within the long tradition of la natura morta in photography, which calls to mind the compositions of Irving Penn or the anthropomorphic quality of Edward Weston's still lifes, what sets Tavormina's work apart is her reverence for the objects themselves. These pictures are as much about the the life cycles of the objects and the memories they evoke for the artist as they are about the lighting and composition, which make them feel intensely personal. They are her poetic way of expressing respect for the human condition.
Largely self-taught, Tavormina has been exhibited internationally and was the winner of the Grand Prix at the 2010 International Culinaire Photography Festival in Paris. She has worked on set as a food stylist in Hollywood and also photographs works of art for Sotheby's. Her work has been featured in several publications including The New York Times, Boston Globe, L'Express, Martha Stewart Magazine and Photo Technique Magazine. She lives and works in New York City.
The New Yorker
March 1, 2013
The artist constructs and photographs still-life arrangements inspired by such art-historical precedents as paintings by Francisco de Zurbarán and Giovanna Garzoni. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers spill from their containers in an almost obscene display of abundance; many of them are overripe, splitting open, or bruised; ladybugs, butterflies, and bees hover. In two of the more over-the-top images, goldfish have escaped small bowls, landing on a bare wooden table with a spray of tiny droplets. Everything seems poised between voluptuousness and rot, at once gorgeous and doomed. Through March 9.