Luigi Ghirri – Project Prints

An adventure in thinking and looking
Curated by Elena Re
Period: 4th February – 11th March 2012
Press preview 5.30 p.m. on Friday 3rd February 2012

As part of the Le scatole viventi / The Living Boxes project curated by Andrea Bellini, and in collaboration with the Fondo di Luigi Ghirri, the Castello di Rivoli is pleased to present the LUIGI GHIRRI – Project Prints. An adventure in thinking and looking exhibition, curated by Elena Re.

Through a broad selection of project prints – the first contact prints Ghirri produced to see the results of his work – the exhibition offers a new overview of the principal photographic projects undertaken by the artist from 1980 to 1992, the year of his early death. At the same time, via a series of models of works produced by him in the 1970s, the exhibition explores further the fundamental question of the project in Luigi Ghirri’s work, offering a special moment for reflection on his thinking, his poetics and his vision. A vision that has opened a new scenario, which has become part of a broad cultural debate and today constitutes an essential point of reference for artists of the new generation.

An adventure in thinking and looking. The exhibition’s subtitle is an expression formulated by Ghirri himself to define photography, a reflection he introduces into his writings in L’opera aperta, 1984. This is a fundamental text for understanding his poetics, and the object of a conference he held at the Sorbonne, in Paris. The original typescript is one of the documents on display in the exhibition.

Photography […] I believe it to be an extraordinary visual language for being able to increase this desire for the infinite we all have within us. As I said before, it constitutes a great adventure in the world of thinking and looking, a great, magical toy that succeeds miraculously to combine our adult awareness with the fairy-tale world of childhood […], Borges wrote of a painter who wanted to paint the world, and began with pictures of lakes, mountains, boats, animals, faces, objects. At the end of his life, putting together all of his pictures and drawings, he noticed that this immense mosaic was his own face. The starting point of my project and photographic work may be compared to this tale. The intention of finding a key, a structure for every single image, which all together goes to form another. A slender thread that binds autobiography and the external world. (Luigi Ghirri, L’opera aperta, 1984)

In order to enter into detail and analyse the significance of the project prints in greater depth and so explore the theme of project in the work of Luigi Ghirri, we need first of all to say that, having grown up in a conceptual climate, from the
early 1970s Ghirri matured a series of fundamental considerations concerning the role of photography in the world of contemporary art. In general, interest had shifted from the ability needed by the artist to create a work manually to the coincidence between work and reality recorded by the camera, in a process that often referred to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades and the automatic writing of the Surrealists. And in a similar comparison, Ghirri himself had arrived at concentrating essentially on the contents of his own work, developing the design part and placing at the centre of his research a sense of “looking”, or the rational and emotive capacity to deciphere that data gathered through perception, transforming them into visual thinking. It was in this period that Ghirri began to work systematically on a number of projects and to structure his first series, often making maquettes or models that made it possible to visualise the work and consider it.
But continuing his work in the next decade and exploring further his expressive research into landscape, in the early ‘80s Ghirri progressively abandoned the small-format camera and began to produce larger negatives, not through a love for the medium but almost to “enter” the subject analysed with greater intensity. The centrality of the thinking and sense of the project continued to be the fundamental prerequisites of his work even in these years. To the point that these same negative turned out in reality to be a further design instrument at his disposal. These negatives could be used to make excellent contact prints, small photographs that Ghirri could then cut, archive, put in a line, to see every image, to plan a series, to organise his way of looking, leaving them loose so as to form new groups in infinite combinations. These small photographs, with which Luigi Ghirri developed his vision and a thinking around his own work between the early ‘80s and 1992, are the project prints, a very large corpus of miniature prints first created as a project tool.

For the exhibition at the Castello di Rivoli, a catalogue will be published by JRP|Ringier, and edited by Elena Re. The volume includes 200 colour images covering all the works, objects and documents on show, together with a critical essay by the curator and interviews with Andrea Bellini, Paola Ghirri and Massimo Minini. The catalogue also includes a collection of extracts from the writings of Luigi Ghirri, in which the artist himself stresses and repeats the centrality of the thinking preceding the work.

Luigi Ghirri (Scandiano, Reggio Emilia, 1943 – Roncocesi, Reggio Emilia, 1992) was active as artist for more than 20 years, from 1970 to 1992. One of the most important and influential artists in the field of contemporary photography, he began working in the area of conceptual art, where his research soon brought him to international attention. In 1975, he was one of the “Discoveries” of the Photography Year by Time-Life and participated in the Art as Photography –
Photography as Art exhibition in Kassel. In 1982, he was noted by Photokina of Cologne as one of the most significant artists in the history of 20th-century photography. His works are conserved in various institutions around the world,
including: Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Musée-Château (Annecy), Musée de la Photographie Réattu (Arles), Polaroid Collection (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Musée Nicéphore Niépce (Chalon-sur-Saône), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan), Archivio dello Spazio – Amministrazione Provinciale (Milan), Galleria Civica (Modena), Canadian Centre for Architecture – Centre Canadien d’Architecture (Montreal), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Cabinets des estampes – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Fond National d’Art Contemporain (Paris), Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione (Parma), Biblioteca Panizzi – Fototeca (Reggio Emilia), Palazzo Braschi – Archivio Fotografico Comunale (Rome), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin), Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT (Turin), Fotomuseum (Winterthur).

In 2010 a wide selection of his works was exhibited at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco in a collective show entitled La carte d’après nature, curated by Thomas Demand. In 2011, the same show was presented at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. Bice Curiger presented him in the ILLUMInazioni exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale.


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Photos of the exhibition

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