The Grunwald Gallery will present Italian artist Andrea Ventura’s exhibition, “Vanitas,” on Friday.
The exhibition, which will open with a 5 p.m. lecture from Ventura and Tim Kennedy, senior lecturer in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design, will be followed by a reception from 6-8 p.m. “Vanitas” showcases both illustrative portraits from Ventura’s work for magazine publications, as well as thematic paintings and collages from his studio work.
The gallery will be open every Tuesday through Saturday from 12-4 p.m., and is free to all visitors.
Ventura is currently based out of Berlin, but he was raised in Milan, Italy, by his father, who illustrated children’s books. Ventura said he was immersed in drawing at an early age because of the environment he was raised in.
“I was just doing it as a game, just to play,” Ventura said. “But I think in a way that’s never changed. I feel like I’m still playing.”
Ventura’s playful artistic style is visible in his exhibition — his portrait subjects are encompassed in saturated, bright hues. His “Vanitas” paintings combine realistic, human forms with unexpected shapes and colors.
“I worked a lot with colors and I tried to create something that goes a bit beyond realism, something that gives a sense of dream or a miracle in the work,” Ventura said.
The traditional definition of “Vanitas” refers to art that encourages the viewer to reflect on their life and mortality. Ventura said his work isn’t outright intended to do that and is rather a combination of autobiographical and historically inspired pieces. He said he drew from elements of his family life, war and human emotions like apathy and catharsis.
“I always wanted to represent the human figure not just as a portrait, but in a bigger context,” Ventura said.
He said it’s difficult for him to pinpoint a single source of influence on his work. Ventura said he drew inspiration from his family, as well as other artists and art movements, including conceptual artists and Italian painters of the ‘60s. He said he thinks artists often pull elements of others’ style for their own work.
“We are always stealing,” Ventura said. “You kind of have to eat it, and you digest it and you make something else out of it hopefully – that’s kind of the best.”
Ventura’s exhibition portraits have covered many prestigious, international publications including Italian Vogue, The New Yorker, La Republica and others. His magazine work — an array of commissioned portraits of historical figures and celebrities such as Ulysses S. Grant, Twiggy or Kaia Gerber — is what initially brought him to IU.
Ventura said Kennedy connected with Ventura during a trip to Berlin after seeing his work in the 2017 New York Times Book Review. Kennedy brought Ventura’s work to the gallery’s attention and invited him to be a visiting artist at the Collins Living and Learning Center for spring 2022.
The Grunwald Gallery’s Director, Betsy Stirratt, said she finds Ventura’s unique style and non-traditional artistic background to be especially compelling. She said she encourages students to learn about Ventura and his work at the opening.
She said though most people today view artwork on screens, Ventura’s work is worth visiting in person.
“They’re beautiful pieces because they’re not just illustrative,” Stirratt said. “They have abstract portions to them.”