Jan Dibbets. Another Photography

08 april 2014 - 29 june 2014

curated by Marcella Beccaria


The first important international event opening the festivities for the thirtieth anniversary of the Castello di Rivoli concerns the figure and work of Jan Dibbets, the interpreter of an intense cultural season in Europe and abroad and among the first artists to exhibit at the Museum for its inaugural show Ouverture in 1984. Installed in the rooms on the third floor of the Savoy residence, the exhibition proposes a vast and exhaustive excursus among the Dutch artist’s most important works, beginning from his debut in the late 1960s to today. The event, curated by Marcella Beccaria and installed in close collaboration with the artist himself, presents the vastest retrospective ever dedicated to Dibbets by an Italian museum, including a precise selection of particularly significant works as his artistic course has unfolded, covering almost fifty years of contemporary art history. The selection, which includes works that for some time now have been part of the Castello’s permanent collection, intentionally gives preference also to rare works, almost never shown in public in so far as housed for decades in private collections.

Dibbets is a Conceptual Art pioneer, with an international standing and importance for generations of artists after him. As Marcella Beccaria writes: “Rather than ‘what’ we see, the works of the artist lead us to ask ‘how’ we see, and it is precisely these fundamental questions that give rise to his work. In dialogue with some of the most salient moments of Western art culture, from Dutch painting to Italian art, and the relating theories on form and perspective, Dibbets’s inquisitive mind knows how to create an innovative, individual course that has contributed in turn to establishing new artistic languages. Among the pioneers of Conceptual Art, and part of the emergence of Land Art as well as Arte Povera, from the late 1960s Dibbets has been one of the very first to single out a use for photography as a ‘thinking’ tool, carrying out a revolution the consequences of which have been further amplified in the present digital age.”

Jan Dibbets. Un’altra fotografia / Another Photography opens with works that use the image of the horizon to investigate the never-before-seen possibilities of photography and the visual illusions tied to its two-dimensional plane. An everyday though intangible element, the horizon offers moments of reflection for the artist to develop his own specific mode of vision and creation of a new visual, cultural, and philosophical space. Visitors are welcomed, at the start of the itinerary, by the double video projection Horizon – Sea III, 1971, and relating studies done at the time, just like other works rarely shown in public, like Five Island Trip, 1969, and Sea – Horizon, 1971.

Dibbets’s in-depth research by observing the horizon can be found in the following Room 34, with some historic works like Flood Tide, 1969, Sea – Horizon 0° – 135°, 1972. Belonging to the Castello’s collection is Comet Land/Sky/Land, 6° – 72°, 1973, part of the important series Comets, a group of works where the artist composes the photo image, installing the resulting photographs in arch-shaped dynamic compositions. The Museum also possesses the more recent Horizon Land – Sea, 2007. For the first time presented to the Italian public is a series of very rare works on paper relating to the first Perspective Corrections, the series that is rightly considered crucial in the formulation of Conceptual Art.

The show continues in Room 35 with works that display Dibbets’s attention to photography investigated in relating to the effects of light, analyzing the transformations the camera is or is not able to create, like in The Shortest Day at My House in Amsterdam, 1970, in The Shortest Day of 1970 Photographed from Sunrise to Sunset, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1971, or in Daylight-Flashlight. Outside Light – Inside Light, 1971, the image sequence that concerns variations of natural light and the camera flash, done in Turin. Also made in Turin, and more precisely in the historic Sperone gallery, is Shadows on the Floor of the Sperone Gallery, 1971, where Dibbets focuses on forms drawn by the light on the floor. Windows also appear many times in following works like Tollebeek Spring II, 2000, or Santa Creus, 1994, Tilburg III (Green), 1999, selected for the show.

The New Colorstudies, which are found in Room 36, represent a very important group of works up to today and which originate from negatives taken between 1975 and 1976, when Dibbets decided to concentrate his attention on details of car bodywork and their color reflections. Experimentation is a constant in Dibbets’s oeuvre, and many ways of photographing are collected in Room 37. Never shown together previously, the Double Dutch Mountains compose photo “panoramas” of great refinement. Quite rare are the works from the series The Voyage of Captain SEH, 1976, a precocious example of “appropriated” photography. Instead, the Perspective Collection represents Dibbets’s ability to reformulate, according to new premises, artistic matters that lie at the base of his conceptual investigations. Through a selection installed in Room 38, the exhibition lingers upon Dibbets’s rich output in the 1980s, when he reintroduced the use of painted images, juxtaposing them with photographs in works that research the perception of space, starting with buildings or their architectural details. In the first examples, the inclusion of painting concerns works inspired by the artist’s Italian home in Tuscany, like for San Casciano Ceiling, 1980, or in the monumental San Casciano Tryptich, 1983–1984. Among the works that round off the itinerary are Kröller Müller Saenredam II, 1987, which also bears witness to Dibbets’s relationship with the master Dutch artist Saenredam and his well-known church interiors, the visual precision of which has at times inspired Dibbets.