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Robert Longo Transforms X-Rays of Historical Paintings Into Ghostly Charcoal Works

Drawing from Titian, Rembrandt and da Vinci.

Metro Pictures gallery is displaying the works of NYC-based painter and sculptor Robert Longo in an online viewing room. “After Titian” includes a series of work based on X-rays of historical paintings sourced from museum conservation departments. These X-ray images produce a surreal effect when the underlying figures appear alongside the final ones on the surface, and reveal important information about the history and material constitution of the artworks.

Included in the series is Longo’s drawing Untitled (X-Ray of Venus with a Mirror, 1555, After Titian), which uses the X-ray of the famed Titian painting housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A female figure — unrecognizable in the original painting — emerges out of Venus’ torso, while wooden stretchers cross over the entire composition, producing a sinister and ghostly effect. By meticulously recreating the images in charcoal, Longo investigates their nature and meaning through “this kind of visualized image archaeology.”

“I think God is about believing in the invisible, and x-rays are about seeing the invisible,” Longo explains. “When I began this series, I re-read texts by writers such as Walter Benjamin, who describes the loss of the aura. I thought that this series of works based on x-rays was a way of reclaiming the aura. I also love this idea of seeing things that you can’t see.”

Head to Metro Pictures’ website to check out Robert Longo’s works in the viewing room.

In other news, take a closer look at Maura Segal’s abstract works, which are comprised of geometric forms and carefully cut-out lines.

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