Entertainment & Arts

Review: Luciano Perna’s surprising life at Downtown Photoroom

Luciano Perna
An installation view of Luciano Perna’s “Life is Full of Surprises, More or Less Interesting...”
(From Luciano Perna / Downtown Photoroom)

Luciano Perna’s nimble exhibition at Downtown Photoroom takes visitors on a whimsical trip to Naples, Italy, where he was born, and beyond — far beyond.

Autobiography plays a part in the L.A. Conceptualist’s playful works, whose congenital curiosity induces viewers to see them for what they are — tourist postcards, travel snapshots, inkjet downloads and blown-up photocopies — as well as for what they might be: imaginative talismans whose magic is limitless, ungraspable, regenerative.

Mount Vesuvius appears in most of Perna’s pictures, sometimes erupting violently and at other times standing silent, a ghostly sentinel.

There’s a rhythm to the exhibition, a back-and-forth between the six biggest images (which measure up to 12-by-9 feet) and the eight clusters of smaller pictures that Perna has framed and hung between the unframed big ones. As you navigate the rectangular space, meaning migrates — hopping, skipping and jumping between and among the various views of Vesuvius that Perna has selected, reproduced and interspersed with images of flowers, saints, pleasure boats and B-17s.


Titled “Life Is Full of Surprises, More or Less Interesting…,” the exhibition treats Vesuvius as an emblem for the effect art has on humans: Its literal power and its metaphoric import (or figurative significance) are not the same thing.

Art traffics between them, triggering explosive poetry in the mind’s eye without doing damage to the real world. That’s Vesuvius at its best. For Perna, it’s standard operating procedure.

Downtown Photoroom, 1933 S. Broadway, suite 1242, (323) 300-3783, through Aug. 30. Closed Sun.-Tues.

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