Marco Corvo on the Corvo Brothers, Morte and the Denver art scene

The Corvo Brothers, Marco and R. Gonzago, come from a filmmaking background, but their preferred art form is still photography. The Denver transplants manipulate multiple photographs to create dreamscapes that almost come alive as "one frame films," explains Marco.

This Saturday, October 12, at Groundswell Gallery, the brothers will present Morte, "a thematic retrospective" centered around death, Marco says. From the haunting tintypes of their Victorian Women series to pieces from Metamorphosis, photographs depicting human bodies transforming into wax that are both beautiful and grotesque at the same time, Corvo Brothers images come alive even when dealing with death, energized by the juxtaposition of medical and religious themes.

In advance of the opening, Westword spoke with Marco Corvo about the brothers' work and the Denver art scene in general.

See also: Conceptual art and neo-modernism set the stage at Emmanuel and Gildar galleries

Westword: The medium of your art is photography. What are the techniques you use to construct the photos? I can't imagine it is a simple point and shoot?

Marco Corvo: Well, we are often labeled photographers, but both of us originally trained as filmmakers. What we do is create dreamscapes or narratives of wonder using multiple photographs, sometimes up to fifty for a single image, that are staged, manipulated and composited together. What you see in the final image are also painted backgrounds and sculpted pieces, made out of wax, for example. We approach each image as a single frame film and usually use a sketch-storyboard: We construct the sets, we cast the actors, light it, and create the special effects.

You're from Milan, where you were known as quite the advertising guru. What came first for you -- art or advertising?

Art always came first for me, although my years in advertising as an art director taught me a few things because I was able to work with amazing artists and photographers and learn from them. I haven't worked in advertising in more than ten years now.

How did the artistic relationship with Gonzago begin? Are you two one and the same, or do you bring vastly different styles to the table?

We began working together in about 2004. He had been working mainly as a cinematographer at that point, and still is, and I was experimenting with compositing photography and painting. Maybe because we both trained as cinematographers and have filmmaking experience, the best way to describe our roles are in film terms: We both produce the work, and on the set I do the directing and Gonzago is the cinematographer. I think we have a shared sensibility but, like a director and cinematographer, collaborate and negotiate to arrive at the final image.

The Corvo Brothers have had a lot of success in the Denver art scene, as well as around the world. Do you find Denver to be an inspiring place for art? Do you like the art scene in Denver?

I think that the last few years have brought exciting changes and great additions to the Denver art scene, with a lot more possibilities for local artists and artists working in really different styles and with really different visions to hang their work and have access to venues like the CVA, Redline, Denver MCA and the DAM, which are gaining national reputations. That, plus a thriving gallery scene, with both traditional and more "underground spaces" contributing to a really lively, exciting scene here. At the same time, I think it is still small enough to meet people, to exchange ideas and experiences with other artists. There has been a lot of talk about how Denver has been really welcoming for musicians to try out their material, meet other musicians, in order to then launch national careers, and I think that Denver has the possibility to do that in the visual arts as well. What can people expect at your next show at Groundswell?

Well, it will be a "thematic" retrospective. We picked a number of pieces from different series we've done over the year that all deal with the theme of death. There are pieces from our first series, Victorian Women, which are printed on metal plates; there are pieces from our Orphans series that are large colorful narratives of wonder; and there are the dreamscapes from our latest series, Metamorphosis, that involve sculpted wax landscapes.

This is the first time we are showing at Groundswell. It has been a unique gallery experience for us, somewhere between a museum show and an underground or non-traditional gallery. You have two artists who are the curators and they select and invite artists that they think are an important or an interesting part of the Denver art scene. So, in some ways, there are fewer restraints or expectations than you might have in a traditional gallery or in a museum show. At Groundswell, the shows arise from a flexible and open dialogue between artist and curators.

The artist reception for Morte runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, October 12, at Groundswell Gallery, 3121 East Colfax Avenue. The exhibit will run through November 2.

More information about the Corvo Brothers can be found here and here.

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Alex Brown is a freelance writer from Denver, Colorado. You can find him around town falling off his skateboard, eating burritos and petting dogs.
Contact: Alex Brown