The Sixties and Seventies: The Body as Language

Curated by Roberta Valtorta

In the ‘60s and ‘70s the body was a central theme in society and in the arts. These were the years of hippie culture, sexual liberation, feminism and utopian visions of a free society in which line between public and private is erased. It is the time of the concerts at Woodstock, the Isle of Wight and Monterey, of the Living Theatre, Grotowski and the Odin Teatret, of the miniskirt and bare breasts, when the body was starting to become an object of consumption and the ideal body was that of models like Twiggy, Jane Shrimpton and Verushka. In art, it was the season of Fluxus, Body Art, performances, happenings. Also in photography, enquiry into the body intensified, and the awareness of the body often coincided with a new awareness of the potential of the medium itself as something open and unconventional. The exhibition presents the works of 12 artists chosen from 3 photography collection: Gabriele Basilico, David Bailey, Günter Brus, Maurizio Buscarino, Eugenio Carmi, Carla Cerati, Paolo Gioli, Guido Guidi, Les Krims, Paola Mattioli, Floris Neusüss and Christian Vogt. It is a universe rich with languages, often focusing on the sequential narrative, the dreamlike mise-en-scene and the presentation of the body in a theatrical, psychological and social dimension.

Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea 26 March – 11 September 2011

David Bailey (London, UK, 1938) is an important fashion photographer, well-known as the portraitist of the ‘Swinging London’ of the ‘60s, immortalizing famous actors, bands and pop stars. In addition to photography, he also works as a director of television ads and documentaries.

Gabriele Basilico (Milan, 1944-2013), an architect by training, is one of the greatest contemporary Italian photographers and one of the best known internationally. Since the mid-‘70s he has devoted his tireless and methodical research to the city as a complex organism and to the transformations of the post-industrial landscape.

Günter Brus (Ardning, Austria, 1938), considered a pioneer of Body Art, is also one of the founders of Viennese Actionism. His work, based on extreme and unsettling performances often accompanied by photography, addresses the issues of human instinct, death and sexuality.

Maurizio Buscarino (Bergamo, 1944), since the early ‘70s he has devoted himself to analyzing the world of theater, from Europe to American to Asia. His work is an impressive and intense study of the human figure, the portrait, identity in fiction and our relationship with death.

Eugenio Carmi (Genoa, 1920 – Lugano, 2016) was one of the leading exponents of Italian abstract art. He also worked in graphic design and industrial communication, kinetic and audiovisual art, occasionally creating photographic abstractions.

Carla Cerati (Bergamo, 1926 - Milan, 2016) has been a writer and photographer since the early ‘60s. An important exponent of the Italian school of reportage, after having devoted herself to the theater, she turned her critical eye to fundamental issues of society, politics, customs and culture.

Paolo Gioli (Sarzano-Rovigo, 1942), among the most original and profound painters, filmmakers and photographers at the international level, has been working for years on issues of the body, the face and human identity, experimenting incessantly with the materials of photography and film, always inventing new visual codes.

Guido Guidi (Cesena, 1941), who worked for years at the IAUV – Architecture Institute of Venice – is respected internationally as a master landscape photographer. Researcher, professor and subtle investigator of pictorial space, he has been active since the late ‘60s.

Les Krims (New York, 1942), photographer and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Buffalo State College, is an artist known for his installations and scenic inventions charged with irony, historically one of the first exponents of ‘staged photography’.

Paola Mattioli (Milan, 1948), philosopher by training, she began doing photography during university and became an assistant to Ugo Mulas. Mainly a portraitist but also a social photographer, she is interested in the image of women and, in parallel, in the languages of photography itself.

Floris Neusüss (Lennep, Germany, 1937) has dedicated his entire career to the practice, study and teaching of the photogram in all its most varied aspects of technique, expression and format, and in the contrasts of light/shadow and movement/stasis. In addition to being an internationally renowned artist, he is also an important writer and teacher.

Christian Vogt (Switzerland, 1946) is one of Europe’s most important photographers. He has worked for years on the relationship between visible reality and imagination, studying the codes of photography in an anti-documentary way, using curious sequences of enigmatic images as well as texts.


MUFOCO EDUCATIONAL THE BODY AS LANGUAGE bailey DAVID ROYSTON BAILEY Tokyo 1975 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. Basilico GABRIELE BASILICO 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. Brus GÜNTER BRUS 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. Buscarino MAURIZIO BUSCARINO 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. Carmi EUGENIO CARMI Chromosynclasma, 1971 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. Cerati CARLA CERATI 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. Gioli PAOLO GIOLI 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. Krims LESLIE KRIMS 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. Mattioli PAOLA MATTIOLI Autoritratto, 1977 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. neussus FLORIS NEUSÜSS 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. Vogt CHRISTIAN VOGT "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.

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