Rita Lino, Entartete

JTF (just the facts): Published by Éditions du LIC in 2015 (here). Hardcover, 180 pages, with 72 color photographs. Includes writings by Mike Hoolboom. In an edition of 500 copies. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Rita Lino borrowed her first camera from her father, an amateur photographer, when she was a teenager. Gradually, as she turned the camera to herself, photography became her obsession and a manifestation of life. Originally from Portugal, Lino studied photography in Barcelona, and she now lives and works in Berlin. She names German filmmaker Werner Herzog and artists like Sophie Calle and Wolfgang Tillmans as her artistic references. Lino’s recently released photobook Entartete embraces sexuality and an almost fearless sense of self-analysis.

Entartete brings together an archive of Lino’s self-portraits taken over the past decade. The collection of photographs from various years and series explores Lino’s relationship with her body in a playful, blatantly honest way. She shares her intimate moments and obsessions, and the images are raw, provocative, narcissistic and very feminine. In these portraits, she poses with various objects and pieces of clothing, often in unexpected postures and against carefully selected backgrounds. The first image in the book is a medium size body nude portrait; it is almost a classical portrait and the only unexpected element is a very thin dark net covering her face and hair. A few pages later, another image captures Lino on a messy table (magazines, fruits, pack of snacks): her legs are wide open and half a melon covers her naked sex. In another image, we see her rear end while she is wearing a torn fishnet body suit, her hands gently squeezing the flesh while she holds a cigarette. As she photographs herself in various roles, Lino explores the limits of her own body and perception, and invites us watch closely.

Lino’s work is a stylized performance in front of the camera where she is both the photographer and the subject. As she mindfully stages and frames her photographs, searching for appropriate places or the right lighting, the camera becomes an integral part of her being. Her clothes and accessories are always carefully selected elements of the performance (a long green dress, ragged tights, fur). Carefully reconstructing reality, she explores her own self, completely blurring the line between reality and fiction. Her stage can be an intimate domestic environment as well as a public space or park. Lino seems especially obsessed with statues, her photographs with them combining the stillness of the granite with her wild expressiveness, creating a dynamic contrast.

Lino’s photographic practice seems to reflect her genuine personality. Through photography, she seems to observe and study herself. Her very intimate visual diary lets us become part of her world. Lino’s stylized photographs are very expressive and emotionally charged. She learns how to control her own characters, and her images express a whole rainbow of emotions (she is audacious, seductive, silly, judgemental, upset, dreaming) – yet regardless of the persona she adopts, she always seems natural and authentic.

The text placed throughout the book adds another dimension to the images. The writing is witty, provocative and somewhat bizarre. “On most afternoons, the only way I can keep my armour on is to take my clothes off. I’m heartbroken but I have perfect tits. Isn’t that enough?” These short texts mix so well with the visual narrative that you might never notice that they were created in collaboration with the Canadian filmmaker and writer Mike Hoolboom.

Lino’s pictures are especially enthralling in a photobook format, creating a more intimate experience, connecting otherwise isolated images and reflecting the artist’s sensibility. It has a hot foil embossed quarter-bound hardcover and shiny red lettering on the spine. The layout succesfully mixes full bleed photographs with generous black space, and black page edges add to the content and book design. The font (credited to the Norwegian graphic designer Ingvild Thirouin) is another strong element in the book. The German style type in red on black might be referencing a typeset used by the Nazi regime, while the book’s title Entartete (also taken from the German word meaning degenerate) echos Entartete Kunst, part of the Nazis campaign against modern art.

Rita Lino creates exceptionally expressive visual portraits, seemingly sharing her self-analysis and vulnerability with the viewer. And yet, nothing really fully reveals her – she remains elusive. Her often carnal images blend with unvarnished emotions and undisclosed mysteries, drawing us back again and again in search of another jolt of life.

Collector’s POV: Rita Lino does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via her website (linked above).

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