Mimmo Jodice

GAM - Galleria

Mimmo Jodice is one of a handful of artists—among them Franco Mulas, Gabriele Basilico, Mario Cresci, Luigi Ghirri, and Gianni Berengo Gardin—who have helped redeem the figure of the photographer in Italy by liberating the medium from a purely documentary role. This retrospective, covering some thirty-five years of Jodice's work, reveals his oeuvre's immense vitality. The early work is intensely experimental, recalling the radical formal strategies of Cubism and Constructivism. Images are decomposed into fragments (Nudi stroboscopia [Stroboscopic nudes], 1966; Nudo multiplo [Multiple nude], 1970) or else lacerated, with the rupture furrowing the entire field, as in the powerfully poetic Contatto (Contact), 1971. Jodice's use of montage and his manipulation of the printing process (still important to his work) seem to construct an “other” gaze, one that's different from the eye we cast on everyday reality. The artist seems most concerned with the materiality of the medium itself.

And yet at a certain point Jodice seems to start looking around and focusing on his everyday surroundings—the life of southern Italy, Naples in particular. In the '70s he turned his eye to the social and anthropological dimension of his region. And so we witness rituals of death festivals and collective ceremonies, social problems (terrifying images of a psychiatric hospital, from 1977), misery and suffering. But all these are captured with an attention to spatial perspectives and to gradations of black and white that raises the images above journalism. They seem superhistorical—almost mythical symbols. The setting is Naples, but it could be anywhere. This is the inferno of the world and of the soul. It is as if the camera's viewfinder were turned inward, not outward. Jodice's nearly metaphysical stance reached its fullest development in the '80s, when the artist abandoned the human presence and began to devote himself almost exclusively to landscapes (unnatural, urban ones, made up of everyday objects that seem alienated, displaced, in both an iconographic and a conceptual sense). Full of anomalies, almost surreal, these are incorporeal presences suspended in space, as if freed from the force of gravity (La Città Invisibile, Bagnoli, or La Città Invisibile, San Martino, both 1990, from the “Invisible City” series, are just two among many examples).

One remarkable series, which Jodice began in the '80s and worked on for a decade, is dedicated to the myths of the Mediterranean and thereby to the historical-artistic memory of the cultural cradle of the West. The statues of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the ruins of Petra—those wide-open eyes and mouths forming silent screams now lost in the centuries show us how profoundly Jodice has understood the terrible nature, the cruelty and agony, that lies beneath the surface of myth and the human personification of the gods. With Isolario mediterraneo (Mediterranean island book), published in 2000, Jodice seems to be delving deeper into his investigation of the landscape as a dimension of the spirit and inner life more than real space. The wake of a boat on the sea, a rock that surfaces from the water, the prow of a ship, all lose their physicality. They are no longer things or objects, but have been transformed into events of the mind—of thought and pure emotion.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.