These dreamy images spark the imagine, projecting us towards unknown galaxies, immersing us in the ocean’s deepest abysses.The refined and varied colors and layers have the appearance of marble veining. The focus of Pierre Cordier’s work is the ‘chemogram’, a technique he developed in 1956, images obtained without a camera but rather through the direct action of chemicals on the emulsion paper. The lack of reproducibility makes each chemogram a unique object.
The experimentations of Olivo Barbieri invariably tend towards off-camera photography, creating forms that seem like fireworks or lunar landscapes. This is an imaginative series of early chemograms from the negative inspired by certain writings by Claude Pélieu of a surrealist nature that become important for the images by providing narrative support.
Whether it’s an abstract painting or a photographic image of the hills of Basilicata, the fields of color, geometric, flattened and extrapolated from reality help us to simplify the complexity of the natural landscape in order to create abstract visions at their most minimal. The photographs of Franco Fontana transport us to surreal worlds in which color is the protagonist and the play of lines is cadenced in a sort of chromatic grammar that renders everything more suggestive.
JEAN LOUIS GARNELL
The large-format image by Louis Garnell presents an imposing field of gray surrounded by an explosion of colored fragments deposited along the edges. We no longer have any reference to reality, the forms exist within a digital assembly with no regard for the everyday world. In the series Modules, Images, Jean Louis Garnell entrusts the task o fragmentation and subsequent arbitrary recomposition of images not shot by him to a computer, resulting in an average gray, the sum of all the colors of the world.
The extreme nature of the aerial view provides a unique interpretation of the landscape, insofar as the distance makes it possible to better understand the terrain, which, for those who know how to read it, tells the stories of the people who have lived there. A hill in the Marche region, lined by the furrows of plows working the fields, recalls the strong typographical flavor that we find in the works of Mario Giacomelli. The agricultural landscape becomes two-dimensional, and the lines become traces of man’s perennial effort to plow it, and of the soils submission to the wounds, which evoke the deep creases of the farmer's hands.
Using a pinhole camera, Paolo Gioli inserts small objects of different materials between himself and the subject being photographed, which he has been doing since the 1960s to create portraits and self-portraits on Polaroid film. His photos are thus double, simultaneously capturing the face of the subject and the abstract forms that interfere with it to the point of erasing it. In his work there are always significant overlappings of lines and abstract elements in dialogue/conflict with the subject.
The eye explores the question of vision, put to the test by the abstract experimentations of Franco Grignani. Graphic elements create optical patterns that play on the refined elegance of the forms. Grignani pursues a different and original direction, geared towards deepening the processes of perception – by both the human eye and the camera – and optical phenomena like split vision and distortion.
In certain of Roberto Masotti’s photos of nature there is a subtle, elegant connection to Land Art. Rock emerges from the black of the background, accentuated by layers of paint applied directly to the photo paper, providing an image of a strange and unsettling dream-like dimension.
Nino Migliori’s experiments on photographic paper – chemograms, hydrograms, pyrogram, oxidations, cliché-verres – open up surreal worlds, spatial and graphic, caused by acid reactions, burning, cutting and scraping. The abstract photography of the ‘50s and ‘60s commingles with the abstractions of the Neo avant-garde, exploring all the expressive possibilities of the medium. The surface of the photographic paper turns into a kind of canvas on which forms, constellations, lumps and marks both simple and complex are inscribed by light, 'happening' freely and opening themselves to multiple interpretive possibilities.
The abstract experimentation in the photographs of Paolo Monti arises from the direct observation of nature. The results presented here were obtained through different techniques: from the rotation of the camera to the macrophotography of rocks, lichens, wood, leaves and walls. Thanks to the camera, they visual acuity of the eye is enhanced, penetrating matter until losing all reference to reality, eliciting associations with Abstract Expressionist painting.
The framing selects portions of decontextualized, two-dimensional reality. There is no perspective, the third dimension is eliminated. The vision is caused by pictorial signs left on urban surfaces. In the photography of Aaron Siskind there is no descriptive intention, but rather the need to transform into self-sufficient abstract compositions the mundane, unexceptional things of everyday life, with no particular meaning, the signs found on the walls, streets and railings of New York.
Light is to photography as paint is to painting. The photograms of Luigi Veronesi are abstract compositions, luminous images obtained without the use of a camera. His experimentation began in the darkroom with negatives or photo paper, upon which the objects exposed to light generate games of shadows and unexpected transparencies. What strikes us about his images are the intensity of the colors and the beauty of the forms and geometrical compositions.
The large-format diptych by Silvio Wolf attracts not only the eye but the body, enveloped in warm, intense colors, such that the work ends up directly engaging the emotional sphere as well. The content of the image eludes us, leading our imagination towards memories of sunsets and blazing fires. The association with the work of Mark Rothko is immediate. As Wolf himself explains, he recovers “the initial excerpts of the photographic film, exposed randomly to light while loading the camera and then irregularly developed during the photochemical process”, provoking reflection on the material of photographic film at the boundary between analogue and digital.
The clean lines of the photography David Bailey compels us to focus on tattoos as the main subject of the image. We are not invited to know whose body it is, we meet neither the eyes nor face of the subject, thus obscuring their identity. The beauty of these designs inscribed on the body becomes a secret writing for those who want to express something powerful and important, a non-verbal communication, silently speaking from the skin. For David Bailey, the surface of the body becomes the site of a narrative of authentic micro-worlds.
dalla serie "In pieno sole", 1978
The skin of our body is sensitive to light and reacts by darkening when exposed to it in a process similar to that of photography. Thus, if clothing covers a part of the body, the uncovered part will be transformed, just like emulsified photo paper. Gabriele Basilico, renowned photographer of architecture and landscape, addressed this unusual theme in the ‘70s with a sense of irony and of the grotesque, whereby the body, tanned and greasy with sunscreen, becomes a plastic and photo-sensitive object.
Ana, Performance, 1964
In this series of images, photography assumes the function of witnessing and documenting a performative act. In this way, the performance of Günter Brus can also take place after the fact, yet still right before our eyes. We look at his body which becomes a locus of action in testing its own expressiveness and physical and psychological endurance. His almost theatrical photographs are the final gesture that fixes the drama of the body engaged in extreme positions. Brus’s photographic research of the ‘60s and ‘70s is closely tied to the Neo avant-garde, most notably Body Art, according to which the body itself becomes an instrument of expression and existential measurement.
Francisco Copello, 1977
We find ourselves before a photograph of a theater scene, where the body takes the spotlight: the black background accentuates its plasticity and classicism, while the light defines its contour and emphasizes its vitality and drama. Maurizio Buscarino, one of the greatest European photographers of the theater, chooses this mode to capture the performance of the famous mime Francisco Copello. The body and face of the actor express tension, elegance, elasticity, distortion, harmony and passion.
The female body, fragmented by framing, is used as painter’s canvas, on which the painter Eugenio Carmi casts colored forms with soft tones which, like markers, focus attention on different points on the body: curves, shadows and sinuosities, all constructed as an elegant reference to the abstract compositions that lie at the core of his pictorial enquiry.
dalla serie "Forma di donna", 1972
Carla Cerati’s work starts from the investigation of the metamorphosis of the body. Her nude portraits betray own female gaze, which observes the feminine form carefully and by fragments, framing it from different, sometimes extreme points of view. The gaze of a woman upon another woman in this case results in a sensitive, respectful and empathetic vision, in contrast to the tradition that casts the woman as the object of the male gaze. One senses in her work a transformation of the social and cultural image of the body, along with a renewed accord between photography and the art of the Neo avant-garde, from gestuality to performance.
Nudo telato, 1979
The nude female bust stretches back towards a black ground. There is evident classicism in the pose and gauze that veils the body like in a fresco from Roman antiquity. Placed over the photographic emulsion of the Polaroid is a piece of silk which, once the impression is made, will be removed, and all that remains is its light and transparent weave. For Paolo Gioli, the body is terrain for an existential narrative that combines erotic and psychological enquiry, and at the same time an opportunity for intense experimentation with the physical properties of Polaroid film.
dalla serie Untitled (Fictions), 1968 - 1970
The photographs of Les Krims are small, dreamlike mise-en-scènes which appear to us like flashbacks from a dream/nightmare, surreal situations that destabilize us, pushing us deeper into the story hidden within the visible. These are small images, irreverent and provocative, charged with surprise and amusement, in which the body is often posed by the photographer himself. The compositions are full of objects, characters, messages, restlessness, a veritable frame within a frame, where the association of image and text underscores the irony of the situation.
The silhouette of a female bust floating in the air against a neutral background represents, for Paola Mattioli, the experience of the self-portrait. She sees photographing herself as an act of self-interrogation, a quest for self-awareness as well as ‘proof’ of the use of the photographic instrument. The self-portrait hangs by a thread, floating in space, with a graphic sign from above marked in pencil on the photograph itself.
O.T. Fotogramm, 1962-1969
Female bodies, delicate silhouettes dancing on large-format photo paper, upon which the photographer experiments with the magic of photography without the use of a camera. Floris Neusüss has devoted the majority of his research to the photogram, realizing a life-size series also called nudograms. It is in images like these that performance and photography become one and the same.
"You don't see it, if you don't know it."
Christian Vogt chooses the structure of the sequential narrative to construct short and silent stories around the body that take place in a suspended and dilated temporal dimension, far from everyday life. A woman walks through a black door and approaches, as in a montage or a scene from a film, cropped as if being witnessed by the viewer. The representation of space and time is conveyed through enigmatic and dreamlike images.
Milano, 26 Aprile 1945
Ragazze aggregate a gruppi di partigiani in Via Brera
Often in the photo reportage of Tino Petrelli there a two coexisting stories, one tied to the historical circumstances and the other to the people represented therein. It’s April 26th 1945, the day after the liberation of the city from the Nazis, and the resistance fighters have taken to the streets. In the foreground, three women walk purposefully carrying rifles, eyes forward. There is no violence, but rather determination, dressed in skirts and blouses, that conveys an image of female pride. The men follow a few steps behind.
Witness to the reconstruction immediately after the war, Federico Patellani recounts with a delicate eye the story of a man and woman walking arm in arm along a street on the outskirts of Milan, like a scene from a Neorealist film. In a return to normality, they walk toward us as we watch them, leaving behind their joined shadows which point to a lone man proceeding in the opposite direction. The couple are immersed in conversation, or perhaps simply in love, in the manner of days gone by.
Muro a Milano, 1954
In the 1950s, Milan still carried the scars of a war just recently concluded. Paolo Monti, with a tireless eye for the observation of the material sphere, chooses a tight crop to create a two-dimensional image that leaves little room for understanding the surrounding context. What we see are a wall and a damaged, peeling door, ruins symbolizing the wounds suffered by the city, like the skin of a violated body. The viewer cannot but continuously scrutinize every detail in order to decipher the indecipherable.
GIANNI BERENGO GARDIN
Casa di ringhiera, anni 70
These images by Gianni Berengo Gardin reveal his great ability to capture everyday life from up close. In this case, we feel we are present as he shows us tenements with communal balconies, a collective existence that unfolds on the balconies and between floors. The richness of simplicity can be seen inside and outside the homes, in the men and women of every age, in the railings over which the day’s laundry intermingles with art, in the paintings propped on shelves and the songs improvised as if on a stage. There are only two visible floors, but we can imagine them infinitely continuing above and below, creating unpredictable visual games.
Luna Park, 1955-1965
he ‘60s were the years of a newfound serenity in Italy, of which Mario Cattaneo is the poetic and sincere narrator. This image taken at Luna Park is a complex play of intersecting lines, drawings, words, materials and forms in which the eye moves in spirally around until finding repose in the gaze of the boy standing in the center of the scene, who is not looking at the seated girl but at another girl, of whom we can only see her feet at the left edge, thereby taking us out of the frame and opening up our imagination.
Piazza Duca D’Aosta, Milano 1968
In the work of Uliano Lucas, reportage combines with social commitment. The low point of view creates a powerful image, an icon of the great emigration from the southern Italy to Milan. The deep symbolic meaning of this photograph is generated by the relationship between the foreground subject, immobile and disoriented, carrying a suitcase and a cardboard box held together by string, and the massive Pirelli skyscraper that looms over him like a giant weight on his shoulders. A metaphor of labor and power, in which man is the gear that enables the great machine to move.
The famous portraitist Enzo Nocera enters the Pirelli factories to photograph the workers in their workplace. These images tell us about the importance of belonging to a group, sharing the fatigue of work day after day, the pride of being part of a factory. A planned shot, posed, which for a moment interrupts production, silencing the dense noise of the factory to grant the men and women, who are oftentimes just numbers, a bit of vanity.
Assemblea degli studenti del Politecnico Milano, 1968
One look and we find ourselves immediately in front of the university, participating in the student protests that agitated the hearts of young people and politicians alike in the late ‘60s. Photo reportage works only if it makes us protagonists and not spectators, and in this Cesare Colombo is a master. He is part of the event and we with him, hearing the same noise, trying to see who is speaking through the hands of strangers raised in front of us. It doesn’t matter that the framing is careless, the horizon distorted, the composition contrary to every rule of harmony. What matters is being there.
"Milano. Ritratti di fabbriche", 1978-1980
The gaze becomes a lens, thoughtful, pure and geometrical in the unmistakable style of Gabriele Basilico. The factory dematerializes and transforms into a pattern of lines and forms, of black and white contrasts. Yet something, always, gives three-dimensionality and substance to the image, in this case a large shadow that darkens the entire street and sidewalk in front of the white building. It is the volume of the city behind us, the same city whose outer boundary is defined by the factory itself, while the shadow of a lamppost on the right breaks the linear rhythm of the windows.
Lanfranco Colombo, "Gente di Brera", 1981
Milan is made of people, of its workers and of the intellectuals and artists who bring ideas to life in the substratum of the urban cultural scene. The studio portraits of Enzo Nocera take us back to a classical vision, placing at the center the individual and his personality, often tied to the profession. Posed portraits with careful lighting and a neutral but distinctive background, painted in rough brushstrokes: the faces of Gente di Brera (‘Brera people’) testify to the historical identity of the quarter, are the testimonies of historical identity of the neighborhood, which in those years was being transformed into the Brera we know today.
Pensieri di figure, 1984
The subway stairs are a place of transit par excellence: people move quickly, passing by, no one ever stopping there because the only purpose of this place is to reach another place. Giovanni Ziliani, a painter by training, experimented with shutter speeds of a few tenths of a second, long by photography standards, which prevents us from recognizing the faces of the commuters, making them appear, because of the blurred movement, more like ghosts than as men and women. Thus the individual disappears, blending into the mass to become part of a steady stream of anonymous souls.
"In urbe", 2001
Walking the streets of the city, it is rare that the eye falls upon the plants that grow between the slabs of cement. Yet Tancredi Mangano, in this series, restores their lost dignity and allows us to observe them, helping us discover with amazement an otherwise invisible nature world of incredible variety. The green catches your eye, standing out against the gray background, where walls and roads are conquered, albeit on a very small scale, by a flourishing flora. The titles of the photos, with Latin names like in a herbarium, take us back to botany and the higher scientific study of plant species.
In this image by Vincenzo Castella, the city becomes a sedimentation of vertical layers, the buildings have distances and structural relationships between them that constitute the representation of the place. The shot does not leave space to the urban landscape, closing in on the small portion of space visible from a window. The eye immediately encounters other buildings, the unfocused grille in the foreground and the uniformity of the colors make us feel trapped in a city that keeps us for itself.
FISCHLI & WEISS
"Untitled (Milano Duomo)", 1992-2000
Milan seen from the Duomo, instead of the Duomo seen from Milan: this is how the team of Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss decided to portray the city. The tall spires, unmistakable clues as to where the photograph was taken, tower in the foreground, just as the buildings rise from the city in a game of vertical elements. The reddening sunset merges with the fog and shows us a Milan stripped bare, caught almost by surprise, not having had time to tidy up for the occasion.
The monumental solemnity of the Duomo, heart and symbol of Milan, is presented in all its glory in this large-format photograph (135x160 cm). Thomas Struth, rigorous photographer of great architectural monuments, adopts a frontal view, elevated from the ground and excluding from the frame all the upper decorations and spires. The resulting image is dense, almost squashing the tiny, colorful figures who, as if to play down its grandeur, occupy the lower register.
"site specific_milano 09", 2009
It is with an aerial view, characteristic of many of his works, that Olivo Barbieri shows us the new headquarters of the Region of Lombardy. From this unusual point of view, the image reveals a primordial form not visible from the city nor from any other place. The large-format black and white print (atypical for a photograph so contemporary in subject and language) invites us to scrutinize every detail, allowing us to discover a multitude of details in the bustle of the massive project still under construction.
29 backstage, Teatro alla Scala, Milano from "La Scala, backstage", 2014-2015
Giovanni Hänninen leads us on a discovery of the Teatro alla Scala through a polyptych of images. La Scala, symbol of Milanese culture, shows itself in all its elegance. The static nature of the scene, made so by the absence of actors and audience, is broken only by the parting curtains. The true subject of the photograph is the elegance of the space, the tasteful decorations in gold and ivory, the crimson velvet curtains and red damask silk of the boxes.
Gabriele Basilico shows us the city in color as a living body: the urban fabric is the skin, the streets are connective sinew, the cars and construction vehicles are the blood flowing through its veins. The old must make way for the new in an unavoidable phase of transition. Just below the billboards, on the panels that surround the construction sites, you can see the message Milano si mostra (‘Milan shows itself’), which leads us to discover other images taken in the preceding months by Gabriele Basilico with his classical language.
After years of upheavals, excavations, new construction sites, redirected roads and churning concrete mixers , everything seems ready: the city is finished. Luca Campigotto, landscape and architectural photographer, is ready to capture the new identity of Milan. The sun goes down, the lights come on and the spectacle begins, like a secular contemporary manger scene that captivates those who contemplate it.