In collaboration with Reflex Gallery, ZOO Magazine is proud to present the work of Paris-born Romanian photographer Irina Ionesco (1935). Two unique vintage prints, signed and dated from 1976, will be on show at the gallery until the 17th of August 2014. This is the first time in nearly 40 years that the work of the controversial photographer will be exhibited in the Netherlands. Dubbed ?the ?grande dame? of photography erotica? by the Independent, Ionesco work is a tribute to femininity in all its meant theatrical excesses. Both prints on show are exemplary of the visual style, which brought her instantaneous fame upon public exposure in the 1970s, and which still attracts prestigious clients from both the fashion and editorial world today such as Givenchy and Vogue.
Ionesco who lacked technical knowledge but admired highly skilled luminaries such as Cecil Beaton, and later Robert Mapplethorpe, achieved to turn this initial problem into an advantage. It allowed her to create her own visual language unburdened by conventions and mainly based on alternative modes of lighting (candles) and exposure (putting a 400 ASA film on 800 ASA). From her first experiments with the medium she also kept the habit of using a Nikon F camera, the same model she had received as a Christmas gift from her lover Belgian COBRA artist Corneille in 1964.
Ionesco models often look directly into the lens defiantly. The dolls they hold and the fetishistic accessories they wear work to heighten their nudity as they stand, sit or lay down. They seem to play roles in clichéd fantasies in which they become in turn children, goddesses and perhaps whores. Some of the props and dresses hint at exotic cultures whereas backgrounds might remind one of Victorian photography settings, and hairdos of Rossetti paintings. Alice in Wonderland meets Richard Avedon, Orientalist painting and Symbolism.
Ionesco model in the two prints featured in the exhibition towers over the photographer dwarfed by her presence and her chiseled body turned into a sculptural entity by the camera. As French surrealist Andre Pieyre De Mandiargues once stated ?Irina Ionesco sexual world belongs to a place where there is no licence to touch. It is the world of dreams.? It is perhaps a dark dream as the title of the group exhibition at Reflex Gallery seems to imply.
Beauty of Darkness II also features works by prominent photographers such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama and Erwin Olaf, all of whom have turned black-and-white photography into an art of depth.