Jean-Louis Poitevin, Identifications, 2009

The works of Salvatore Puglia emerge from the vast realm of memory. His photographs and the works he creates from archival images originally intended to identify individuals bear no resemblance to pictures we would expect to be taken by a photographer devoted to recording the past. In fact, the real subject of these works is not the recollection of the past, but memory as a mental faculty and process that enables us to find our bearings in relation to the present.

These works excavate the borders of history, precisely in the areas where oblivion is at work. Seemingly insignificant traces are associated with recent or older fragments that can be text or graphic or pictorial elements. In this way, instead of highlighting a forgotten aspect of the past, Puglia reveals it by showing metaphorically how such a process of concealment can occur.

Taking as his starting point images from vice-squad archives found in France’s Gard département, Rome or Calabria, Salvatore Puglia works on three continually intersecting levels. The original picture is either placed on a background or is covered by a “drip” of red paint with engraved words drawing our attention to meanings that cannot be revealed visually but could be the life story of the individual depicted on the original document.

By showcasing these different levels of identification in each work, Salvatore Puglia immerses us into the core of one of the mysteries of our psyche: recognizing a person even though we know nothing about him or her. Within this duality in our memory lies a kind of unsuspected violence, which these images make us feel first-hand as the simple game of identifying and recognizing becomes the serious game of understanding the ties that bind human beings.

Jean-Louis Poitevin, writer and art critic