FRANCESCO PIGNATELLI at SPIN Gallery (1100 Queen West) until July 10. 416-530-7656. Rating: NNN
Enlivening mundane streets and buildings, Francesco Pignatelli's Reversed Cities washes out his subjects, leaving familiar shapes in spooky colours.
The popular Milan-based photographer shoots in colour and prints the negative image, resulting in a shocking array of neon glows applied as though with a brush.
These sparsely populated shots have an eerie and unnatural beauty.
He's known to be secretive about his technique, perhaps for good reason. Printing negative images is really just a gimmick; the talent is all in finding frames that will read well in the negative. Perhaps it's all luck, but he does achieve attractive results - large, perfectly mounted prints under a reflective finish.
For the most part, Pignatelli sticks to romancing the banal. A wall, a road or a sign springs to ghostly life. Paris clearly seduced him, however; le Tour Eiffel is the subject of one trite shot.
Ray's, one of his more staid pieces, features a five-story New York building whose name is written down its side, outlined in a faint day-glo blue. The front of the building is jet black, with stark white shadows around the fire escape under an ominous orange-brown sky.
Pharmacie blatantly flaunts these effects. On a corner in Paris, a bright yellow pharmacy with pink neon signage sets off the adjacent Palace Video Sex Shop, which offers projection rooms and poppers in blue and aquamarine, while the wet sidewalk reflects this array of bright colours. Two women caught in the frame, nearly identical in their negative images, burn in the bright white of their overcoats.
As real-life reds become blues and blues go yellow, hot looks cool and the wholesome turns sickly. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the work becomes interesting when it sabotages objects' accepted identity and exposes the way colour communicates their character.