Turin

Luigi Ghirri, mock-up of a work from the series “Atlante” (Atlas), 1973, wood box, photograph with passe-partout, 12 5/8 x 15 x 2 1/4“ and 11 3/4 x 13 3/4”, respectively.

Luigi Ghirri, mock-up of a work from the series “Atlante” (Atlas), 1973, wood box, photograph with passe-partout, 12 5/8 x 15 x 2 1/4“ and 11 3/4 x 13 3/4”, respectively.

Luigi Ghirri

Castello di Rivoli

Luigi Ghirri, mock-up of a work from the series “Atlante” (Atlas), 1973, wood box, photograph with passe-partout, 12 5/8 x 15 x 2 1/4“ and 11 3/4 x 13 3/4”, respectively.

In the 1970s, Luigi Ghirri began organizing small photographs he had shot by sorting them in boxes. At the end of the decade, this attitude toward categorizing in series would be nourished by a conceptual matrix that gave substance to his planning approach. The exhibition “Luigi Ghirri—Project Prints: Un’avventura del pensiero e dello sguardo” (An Adventure in Thinking and Looking), curated by Elena Re, focused on this aspect of the artist’s research, exposing the procedures and tools through which he began the various photographic series he created from the early 1970s until 1992.

A well-thought-out selection of documents, writings, mock-ups, and 160 contact prints—preparatory studies for photographic projects—illuminated Ghirri’s programmatic and conceptual approach and his ideas for making some of his works into artist’s books. One of these books, Km. 0,250, 1973, is a recording of images of advertising posters affixed to a wall, concluding with the lapidary and ironic slogan “Vivo il mio tempo. Mi informo” (I live my time. I inquire). A similar archival and serial thrust defines the original structure of Infinito, 1974, which Ghirri made into both an installation and a book and which was represented in this exhibition by a mock-up. The work is composed of parallel rows of photographs of skies, 365 of them, shot day after day over one year. Choosing images that are mostly abstract blocks of color, without coordinates, Ghirri suggests that it is impossible for photography to capture reality, even in fragments. The landscape is replaced by a chromatic and mental mapping. Infinito is a kind of atlas, as Ghirri called it, but the logical system that underlies the project is not so rational: The photographs are not in chronological order. Chance establishes unexpected references between ever-different splashes of sky, adding another level of narration, one more intimate and emotional. Infinito is tied by affinity to the previous series, “Atlante” (Atlas), 1973: the macrocosm on one hand and, on the other, the microcosm of maps whose codes, enlarged out of all proportion, lose their function but become tracks for navigating imaginary worlds.

Ghirri’s journey is distinguished by the encounter between an analytic approach to photographic practice and the poetic force of the image. Devoting himself in the ’80s to landscape above all, he created photographic series whose emotional temperature is manifested in the close attention given to color. In the exhibition, this period was represented by images from the series “Paesaggio italiano” (Italian Landscape), 1981–91; “Esplorazioni lungo la via Emilia” (Explorations Along Via Emilia), 1986; “Il Profilo delle nuvole” (The Outline of Clouds), 1985; and “Versailles,” 1985, among others. In them Ghirri investigates the feeling of place, delving into the photographic image’s capacity to restore a sense of enchantment and wonder, through a rigor of framing that eliminates redundancies and finds limpid geometries in reality. It is not the moment, but rather the temporal categories of metaphysical suspension and duration that appear in these images, drawing out layers of memories and references that urge the eye to settle in.

Contact prints were a fundamental tool for Ghirri. Their small format requires the viewer’s particular attention, as when looking at a miniature. Dividing his production into series, he organized relationships between images in myriad ways, varying the associations. Taking a new approach, this exhibition had the merit of emphasizing Ghirri’s methods and procedures, beyond the better-known and more purely lyrical aspects of his work.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.