Paola Ferrario: Imprevisti/Unforeseen @Sue Scott

JTF (just the facts): A total of 22 photographic works and 1 video, hung in the entry, office space, and main gallery, with the video playing in a darkened room at the back. The photographs are digital prints using archival inks, pinned directly to the walls as single images, pairs, triptychs, or larger series and grids. All of the works are from 2008 and 2009. Individual component images range in size from approximately 8×10 to 22×30; the pictures are then hung as groups of prints or are printed together as one larger piece with multiple images on a single sheet. All of the works are printed in editions of 5+2AP. The video is also from 2009, in an edition of 5+2AP. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Paola Ferrario’s photographs strongly remind me (in the best possible way) of an old teaching tool used to help novice photographers learn how to “see” photographically – take an old piece of white mat board and cut a 4×6 hole in it, and then carry it around and look through it to see how the edges of the frame create compositions. Using this simple prop, one suddenly sees the world entirely differently: scraps and fragments start to matter, edges and details come forward, and overlooked and seemingly random things often have a new resonance.

Ferrario’s images take the learnings from this simple lesson and evolve them into a unique style that combines the color of Eggleston, the playfulness of Luigi Ghirri, and the abstraction of Siskind. Her compositions find warm humor in unassuming places: a pink sock dangles off a hand railing, a rubbish bin looks to devour a white balloon, a smiley face peeks out from the side of a worn yellow basketball. In others, she focuses on texture and pattern: a door peephole lies amidst peeling plastic, strips of duct tape dangle from a wall, a bright orange potato chip bag lies caught in rough concrete.

Ferrario doesn’t stop however with single, clever images; she brings the fragments together in careful juxtapositions, creating rhythms and contrasts between multiple pictures: a series of tar ribbons and road markings are hung together in a interrelated group (almost like a typology), views through molded concrete barriers are hung in a series, fragments of graffiti pop up again and again. The grids become abstract patterns and repetitions of geometry and color, as well as sly rebuses of interconnected metaphors and meanings.

Overall, this show is full of satisfying coincidences and ironies. And don’t miss the manic video in the back, a car-sickness inducing montage of the twist and turns of Italian roadways and tunnels taken with a shaky handheld video camera, punctuated by the radio voice over from a soccer match and the final roar of “GOOOAAAL” as Grosso hits the net.

Collector’s POV: The works in the show are priced as follows: single images run from $400 to $1400 based on size; pairs are between $800 and $1200, and works with between 3 and 16 component images are priced between $1200 and $6500, dependent on size and the number of images included. A price for the video was not on the price sheet. Ferrario’s work is not yet available in the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
While none of the works on display is an exact match for our particular collection, there were many that I found visually striking and entertaining. Asphalt I, 2009, would likely fit our city genre best, with its subtle variations of abstract grey.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Transit Hub:
  • Artist site (here)
  • Smith College page (here)
Through January 10th
1 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

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JTF (just the facts): Published by Aperture in 2024 (here). Softcover with dust jacket (17 x 22.5 cm), 124 pages, with 80 color and black-and-white reproductions. Includes a conversation between ... Read on.

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