Paolo Roversi’s new photography show is an ode to Rei Kawakubo

Paolo Roversi’s new photography show is an ode to Rei Kawakubo

Italian photographer Paolo Roversi’s first US solo museum exhibition focuses on his relationship with Comme des Garçons fashion designer Rei Kawakubo

Paolo Roversi, the revered Italian fashion photographer known for his poetic, painterly works, is the subject of a new show opening at Dallas Contemporary. The show will highlight his nearly four-decades-long creative partnership with fashion designer Rei Kawakubo with over 40 works, some well-known and others never seen before. Kawakubo’s avant-garde clothing that marries punk with romance, lensed by Roversi with his dreamlike, gestural style, makes for a compelling body of work. 

Originally planned to open in March 2020, the path to launch has not been a straight one (unfortunately, Roversi’s retrospective in his home town of Ravenna in Northern Italy was also derailed last year). In light of the news that Dallas Art Fair has postponed its April event until September 2021, Peter Doroshenko - Dallas Contemporary’s executive director who co-curated the exhibition alongside independent curator Dennis Freedman – defiantly says the show will go on. Pandemic travel restrictions restricted Roversi, who lives in Paris, from visiting the gallery during the installation of the show. No matter. ‘We sent him hundreds of video clips of the space,’ explains Doroshenko, speaking from Dallas. ‘He had a specific design that we created, split into two parts, one black, one white.’

Norton by Paolo Roversi, Paris, 2018
Audrey, Paris 1996 by Paolo Roversi
Above: Norton, Paris 2018. Below: Audrey, Paris 1996. © Paolo Roversi

Titled ‘Birds’, the show is centred around a unifying theme of ‘mobility’; a topic which, although Roversi’s images most certainly depict, feels unusually poignant at a time when most of us are devoid of it. Many of his photographs have an inherent sense of movement, abstractly capturing models in poses recalling birds landing or taking off. ‘His works evoke motion, be it through the camera moving or something smudged on the lens,’ says Doroshenko. ‘He even uses mistakes he’s made in the past as new entrées into his final images.’

A series of meetings in Paris beginning in the summer of 2019 between Roversi and Doroshenko sparked the idea for the show. ‘My collaboration with Rei Kawakubo goes back a long time and each time working with her is a new inspiring adventure,’ says Roversi. ‘As Dallas Contemporary is bringing all arts – including fashion – closer, it seemed a good opportunity to show my work together with hers.’

Fashion photography has been central to Dallas Contemporary’s programming throughout the past decade. ‘We’ve incorporated it as we are located in the Design District and it’s important for us to show all aspects of what the word design means,’ says Doroshenko, who has produced shows for Juergen Teller, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, and initiated working with Peter Lindberg before his untimely passing. ‘All of the photographers would speak very highly about Paolo, saying he is the last of the great European fashion photographers.’ §

Self Portrait, Paris 2011 by Paolo Roversi
Self Portrait, Paris 2011  by Paolo Roversi

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