Review of exhibition: Roger Ballen / Ryan Mendoza / Paul P at Massimo Minini, Brescia

Continuing to celebrate their 40th year, galleria Massimo Minini presents a three person show with photographer Rodger Ballen and painters Ryan Mendoza and Paul P. Accompanying such a unique love triangle is a humbling poetic press release, designed as a letter to Massimo Minini’s 6 month old grandson Tommaso. Building up the exhibition like the setting of an opening scene in a book, the distinct background and subject matters of each artist is quixotically married in sanctuary.

An intoxicatingly prolific intensity reverberates throughout the gallery’s corridors and rooms. At once, upon entering the gallery, a long hallway is barely blemished by two of Mendoza’s paintings, which loom on either side of the viewer. Before (2010-2013) depicts the hollowing figure of a woman as she flutters between physical and metaphysical. Her body is fractured by the interior of an elegant living room, where one’s visual senses are heavily sensitised. The eccentric colour pallet – rich in warm, succulent browns, fractured by sweet lavenders and greens – lies with a thin fleshy surface, seductively sparkling in the spotlight. Its overwhelming size is justified and visually rationalised by the vast unadulterated walls that plague viewer’s primary field of vision. This enhances the paintings sensory charm as they flicker within the audience’s peripheral curiosity. This curatorial playfulness is echoed and re-contextualised in the final room of the gallery. Here two more paintings face each other across a small room, their scale emphasised so much so that an intense friction builds, giving the sensation that paintings are ready to burst: their fauvist colours and vivid brush strokes will explode and engulf the space.

There is another side to this pseudo happiness created by Mendoza’s fantastic paintings – a gratingly sublime comedown. Paul P’s impertinently delicate canvases linger with a tantalising animosity. Untitled (2010) sits poisonously at the end of the entrance hallway, Mendoza’s works leave it unloved, abhorred and unnoticed. Its onyx-like appearance is only decipherable when pivoting around it, closely examining its alien surface. Streaks of paint drip down its smudged and impenetrable darkness resembling, it was suggested, daffodils. Its shroud of secrecy and enlightened existentialism only increases its enigmatic displacement. Similarly, Rodger Ballen’s Headless (2006) offers an intruding darkness. The black and white image shows a dingy wall, scarred with untranslatable symbols, as two fruitless and leafless trees frame the central figure – a headless man in a thick winter coat, holding out his palm in which a dove sits, blissfully unaware of an peculiarities. The juxtaposition between hollow or disturbing appearances of people within a domestic environment bridges a gap between Ballen and Mendoza. The monotonously surreal, encroaching on gothic, conjuring of the pictures place the two artists feeling inextricably related, yet at polar opposites.

Perhaps, then, what is revealed throughout the exhibition, and ultimately to Tommaso, is that after the first scene is set up in a book, the characters, in this case Ballen, Mendoza and Paul P, are invariably linked, how this is perceived and progressed is dependent on the reader. A beautiful and telling metaphor for life itself, and one that Massimo and the artists are proud to provide for Tomasso as the universe aligns itself for his opening scene.

William Davie

Roger Ballen, Ryan Mendoza, Paul P, 5 June until 26 July, Galleria Massimo Minini, Via Apollonio, 68, 25128 Brescia.


1. Roger Ballen, Headless, 2006. Courtesy the gallery
2. Paul P., Untitled, 2010. Courtesy the gallery