Franco Vimercati, Esposizioni multiple (Multiple Exposures), 1999/2020, five gelatin silver prints, each 12 × 9 5⁄8".

Franco Vimercati, Esposizioni multiple (Multiple Exposures), 1999/2020, five gelatin silver prints, each 12 × 9 5⁄8".

Franco Vimercati

Franco Vimercati (1940–2001) was the artist with whom Raffaella Cortese opened her gallery in 1995. This show, “Un minuto” (One Minute), accompanied by a book full of illuminating essays and interviews, was curated by Marco Scotini, who emphasized the most rigorously Conceptual aspect of Vimercati’s work. If the term Conceptual designates an analysis of the specific language of an expressive medium, no definition better suits Vimercati and his inquiry into the nature of photography. His photographs—frontal shots of everyday objects, exclusively in black and white, most often grouped in ensembles—are without subjective interventions of any kind.

Each of the gallery’s three spaces was dedicated to a decade of work. The 1970s were represented by pieces that were extremely significant within the context of Italian art at that time. Untitled (Bottiglie di acqua minerale) [Bottles of Mineral Water]), 1975, consists of thirty-six shots, the most it is possible to take on a roll of Kodak film—not thirty-six prints from a single negative, but so many different shots, all identical. The artist in a certain sense identifies with his camera, obtaining all the images the device allows and from the same, most elementary viewpoint. The differences between one image and another are almost imperceptible. Un minuto di fotografia (One Minute of Photography), 1974, records the passage of time in thirteen shots of an analogue alarm clock whose hands read 2:46; the passage of the minute is marked primarily by the movements of the second hand in a sort of perceptual play between time depicted by images, the time of the photographic exposure to which the work alludes, and the real time of the viewer.

In the 1980s, Vimercati concentrated more decisively on the significant factor of light. In the six images of Vaso (o Le temps retrouvé) (Vase [or Time Regained]), 1982, the relief on a small white ceramic vase stands out in full light or withdraws into shadow, depending on the position of the object in relation to a lateral light source, while the figure-to-ground relationship changes depending on shifts of focus. The series “Untitled (Brocca)” (Pitcher), 1980–81, exhibited in sequence and also in a small-scale, single-image version, frames its subject alternately in a round and a rectangular format, creating a visual rhythm in which the differences in focus and the relationship with the background interfere.

The gallery dedicated to the 1990s contained individual pieces, with the exception of Esposizioni multiple (Multiple Exposures), 1999/2020, five shots in which a glass seems to vibrate— actually the result of images being superimposed during the development process. There were also three pictures of a tureen, an item on which Vimercati focused exclusively from 1983 through 1992, along with some upside-down objects: a grater, a glass, an alarm clock—things already familiar from works seen in the first two rooms. The objects are inverted because this is how they appear to the camera’s mechanical eye. And (as with Rodney Graham’s approximately contemporaneous and similarly inverted images of trees, with which Vimercati may not have been familiar) the artist’s intention is to convey the experience of the photographic process, not to “read” the object in and of itself, as he clarifies in one of the interviews in the accompanying publication. In its final appearance here, the tureen was installed atop wallpaper on which was printed a full-scale image of similar works as they were installed in the former quarters of Galleria Raffaella Cortese back in 1995—a surprisingly theatrical conclusion to this exhibition’s rigorous black-and-white path.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.