An Italian perspective
Una prospettiva Italiana
Luigi Ghirri, Gabriele Basilico Massimo Vitali
and Vincenzo Castella
Opening reception: February 2, 5:30-8:00 pm
Howard Greenberg Gallery
Produced in collaboration with Howard Greenberg Gallery, An Italian perspective/Una prospettiva italiana offers 25 exquisite works little known in the United States, from an important and on-going chapter of Italian photography, focusing on four of its leading protagonists active from the 1970s to the present: Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992), who can be considered their precursor and theoretician; Vincenzo Castella (b. 1952), Gabriele Basilico (b. 1944) and Massimo Vitali (b. 1944).
These works represent a break in the history of Italian photography, where each artist in the show rejected their identification with the narration, creativity, or linguistic analysis so dear to the preceding generation. “The disappearance of the ‘author’ is characteristic of this generation”, wrote Ghirri of Castella, relying on “a total faith in leaving the greatest communicative potential to photography without the coercion of any other strategies.” This statement applies to all four artists presented in this exhibition, who take a conceptual approach in creating their “representations”: Ghirri’s landscapes are surreal artificial constructs; Basilico’s “representations” use urban edges and outskirts; Castella uses high vantage points to create impersonal panoramas of indistinguishable cities. For Castella, a city represents a language, and photography is an invention; in Vitali’s socio-landscape, the architecture of place is the dominant subject.
The exhibition re-examines the identity of Italian photography through the differences in aesthetic approaches in these rare works unifying threads and shared sensibilities.
Luigi Ghirri is a pioneer of contemporary color photography, whose work from the early 1970s until his death in 1992 comprises a key part of the conceptual photographic tradition that shifted attention from the process of creating an object, to the examination of that object’s nature and its relation to the image recorded by photography. Ghirri’s visually profound and delicately-coloured images explore representation and perception itself. Despite their small size and modest demeanour, Ghirri’s highly-detailed prints are precursors of the large scale contemporary work by later photographers.
Gabriele Basilico’s lifelong fascination with the city as a densely collaged environment is reflected in his landscape photographs. Basilico was originally trained as an architect: his images are marked by an unsettling stillness and a notable absence of people, an aesthetic that propels architecture and landscape to the forefront while engaging the viewer’s attention to often overlooked places and telling details. The themes of spatial isolation and urban indifference persist throughout his work, as he documents the continually evolving urban landscape of the post-industrial, post-modern city. Basilico’s photographs in this exhibition derive from several series: Bord de Mer, the images he created for Mission Photographique de la DATAR, 1984, to recent images of Moscow and San Francisco.
Massimo Vitali, formerly a photojournalist and film cameraman, acquired international renown for the grandeur of his large-scale photographs of communal spaces, such as Italian beaches, parks and discos, in which he explores the ethnographic relationship between man and nature through depictions of anonymous people during their leisure time. Vitali stations his camera on a raised platform and waits for the landscape to fill with people, watching their individual dramas, complexities, and a multitude of interactions unfold and acquire generalized significance, as in one of his recent works from the beach panorama series presented at the show.
Vincenzo Castella explores the contemporary urban and industrial landscape of places he knows well, including Milan and Naples, using a large-format camera. Influenced by his background in anthropology, Castella chronicles and synthesizes the urban landscape to investigate the commonalities and differences between cities of the Western world. Through minute details and distant horizons, Castella’s urban overviews compare and contrast not only the evidence of history, but proof of unstoppable technological change.
An Italian Perspective includes images from Castella’s “Città-city-siti”, a vast project of colour photographs, which he has worked on since the end of the 1990s, as well as his latest work #3Venice that Castella completed in January 2012 especially for the show.
An Italian Perspective/Una Prospettiva Italiana is presented in conjunction with Peripheral Visions. Italian Photography in Context (1950s-Present), a survey of the past sixty years of Italian photography curated by Maria Antonella Pelizzari at the Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery at Hunter College, http://peripheral-visions.net/
Frieze, Issue 143 November-December 2011, “All Other Images” by Christy Lange, http://www.frieze.com/issue/
Frieze, Issue 130 April 2010 “Luigi Ghirri” by Mark Prince http://www.frieze.com/issue/
Aperture, Luigi Ghirri: It’s Beautiful Here, Isn’t It… Germano Celant (Author), William Eggleston (Preface)
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