Carlo Mollino

October 2008, Zurich

Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973) is one of the greatest aesthetic universalists of the 20th century. Born in Torino as the son of an architect, he started studying art history but soon switched to the architecture faculty where he received his degree in 1931. Mollino saw his degree as a starting point for many different activities, and his many talents were reflected in an adventurous mélange of creative engagements: Mollino was just as successful in car racing as he was in stunt flying. He was inventor, occultist and womanizer and already in his lifetime he made a name for himself around the world as
a highly gifted architect, furniture designer and photographer.

Carlo Mollino is truly an integrated work of art. Besides his architectural work he devoted himself to photography with great skillfulness and became one of the leading figures in this field.
He also made a name for himself as a tinkerer and inventor, experimenting with different cameras and photographic techniques.
As early as 1945, his comprehensive work “Il messaggio dalla camera oscura”, a classic in photography literature, was published in Torino.

The focus of his photo-artistic interest lay on dealing with his own architectural works, which Carlo Mollino documented with virtuosic images and staged scenes. With the help of the camera, his interior architecture and furniture designs became scenic ensembles able to congenially impart the fascination of modernistic formal language.

Mollino did not only use the medium of photography to document his work, but saw the mostly black-and-white pictures as an artistic continuation of his architectural vocabulary that was held in an ingeniously ambiguous balance between material, room structure and details. Strongly influenced and characterized by cinematic moments, the pictures give the Mollino architecture an enigmatic aura; however, they also show surrealistic scenarios and coquet with sexual allusions: with fetish objects, with mirrors, half-closed extravagant Mollino furniture designs and a multitude of sensual textiles. Such complex image worlds could often only be created with the collaboration of professional photo studios. Mollino’s legendary hand-written comments and image-detail notations still present on some of the prints show his mastery and his keen wish to create art. Such photos with “traces” of the master are nowadays highly sought-after unica with vintage character.