Rome – Nan Goldin: “Scopophilia” at Gagosian Gallery Through May 24th, 2014

May 21st, 2014

Nan Goldin, Veils (2011-14), all images courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Nan Goldin, Veils (2011-14), all images courtesy Gagosian Gallery

On view at Gagosian Rome is a unique exhibition of works by American photographer Nan Goldin. Entitled Scopophilia, referring to the Greek word that means “love of looking,” or, more specifically, an erotic pleasure that comes from looking at images of the body, the works focus on themes of sex, violence, rapture, despair, and the blurring of gender.

 Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)
Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)

For her new works, Goldin photographed thousands of paintings and sculptures in the Louvre collections, given private access to the Museum every Tuesday in 2010. Afterward, following an intense period of reflection and documentation, Goldin assembled a 25-minute operatic slideshow, in which her perspective on the historical works are paired with her own archival images dating back to the 1970’s.

Nan Goldin, Morpheus (2014)
Nan Goldin, Morpheus (2014)

The historical images of lust, violence, and transgender tendencies displayed in the Louvre, coupled together with portraits of her own friends and family results in a highly personal conversation between the past and the present of image making – specifically, images of the human body.  Accompanying the slideshow is a classical music soundtrack composed by Alain Mahé for piano, cello and voice. Included are the mythological icons Narcissus, Tiresias, Cupid, and Psyche, creating a highly symbolic, melancholic work. Many of the portraits of Goldin’s friends have never been exhibited before, pulled from archives that had long been put to rest. The slideshow, in the end, has been described by Gagosian and Goldin as “a collective portrait about love and desire, propelled by ‘all of the pleasure circuits deeply fulfilled by looking.’”

Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)
Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)

In addition to the slideshow, a number of related photographs are compiled together into thematic grids hung as panels, many of which were created specifically for this Rome exhibition and are on display for the first time. These panels represent a new direction for Goldin, in which she has begun to embrace the computer, giving her unprecedented access to her own immense archive and an opportunity to revisit some of her earlier work as if for the first time. She chooses to use these past photographs not only as nostalgic moments but as gateway to new insights into themes that span “across time and culture.”

Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)
Nan Goldin, Scopophilia (Installation View)

Given Goldin’s experiences living and working in downtown New York in the late 70’s onwards, her work takes on a strong juxtaposition of cultural and societal examining and often violently deconstructing the privilege afforded to works of the Renaissance masters against the social and sexual dynamism of the bohemian communities of New York City’s recent past.  Comparing the lauded, but often ambiguous behaviors of the Greek gods and goddesses of Renaissance antiquity with the frank portrayals of her own friends and acquaintances, Goldin once again succeeds at making the personal strongly political.

Scopophilia opened on March 21, 2014, and will remain on view at Gagosian Rome through May 24, 2014.

Nan Goldin, Fog, San Servolo, Venice (2010)
Nan Goldin, Fog, San Servolo, Venice (2010)

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Gagosian Gallery]