exhibition | Luigi Ghirri

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THINKING IMAGES. Icons Landscapes Architectures

curated by Francesca Fabiani, Laura Gasparini, Giuliano Sergio

Luigi Ghirri. Thinking Images is a major anthological exhibition featuring over 300 images, especially vintage prints, providing an overview of an undisputed master of Italian photography.
It was shown at MAXXI, from 24 April to 27 October 2013, organized by MAXXI Architettura, directed by Margherita Guccione, and curated by Francesca Fabiani, Laura Gasparini and Giuliano Sergio.

The exhibit started as a collaborative venture between the Municipality of Reggio Emilia and the Panizzi Library, where many of the original documents of Ghirri’s archive (photographs, proofs, books, catalogues and negatives) are conserved, and shows the diverse facets of this complex and eclectic artistic personality.
For this project, MAXXI worked with the Panizzi Library and the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, collaborated with the Ghirri Estate archive and obtained prestigious works on loan from CSAC in Parma, the National Institute of Graphics in Rome and other private collectors.

Luigi Ghirri. Thinking Images is a journey into the work of the photographer from Reggio Emilia (b. Scandiano, 1943- d. Roncocesi, 1992) through his unmistakable photos, as well as through catalogue proofs, books from his private library, magazines, reviews, anonymous photograph collections, postcards and album covers. These bear testimony to his close collaboration with conceptual artists from the Seventies, his cultural and artistic references, his interest in music and his relationship with musicians such as the CCCP group and Lucio Dalla. All this delivers an image of Ghirri not just as a photographer but as a publisher, curator, theorist and cultural catalyst, in ongoing dialogue with architects, musicians, writers and artists.

The exhibit design is arranged in three thematic sections – Icons, Landscapes and Architectures – and takes the viewer through the various stages of Ghirri’s artistic investigations: everyday icons, landscapes as places of attention and affection, and architectures by both anonymous and known designers.
The displays are accompanied by citations from the writings of Ghirri himself, selected with a view to highlighting the quality of his writing and using the artist’s own words to give viewers an insight into his investigations.
In addition to original proofs, publications, album covers and catalogues of exhibits curated by the artist, monitors will be provided as part of the exhibit to give visitors the opportunity to consult the Luigi Ghirri Digital Library, which comprises all the author’s publications not available on the market, including his writings and interviews.

As the curators Francesca Fabiani, Laura Gasparini and Giuliano Sergio have explained, “The choice of proceeding by themes rather than by chronological order is a working method typical of Ghirri himself: photography is understood as an unfinished object, a gigantic work in progress under ongoing development”. The thematic design is thus intended to shed light on the logic of Ghirri’s work by illustrating not only his particular photographic technique but also the way he looked at, selected, arranged and ordered photos, in search of a new critical approach to conceiving the image – to thinking in images.

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Luigi Ghirri was born in Scandiano (Reggio Emilia) in 1943 and died in Roncocesi (Reggio Emilia) in 1992.
One of the leading and most influential artists on the contemporary photography panorama, Ghirri started working as a photographer in 1970, developing his approach within the sphere of conceptual art; his investigations earned him international renown early in his career. In 1975 he was one of the discoveries of Photography Year by Time-Life Books and took part in the Photography as Art exhibit in Kassel. He staged his first anthological exhibit in 1979 at the University of Parma.
In 1982 he was invited to Photokina in Cologne, where he was presented at the Photographie 1922-1982 exhibition as one of the twenty most significant photographers of the 20th century. Concurrently with his exhibition activities, he became deeply engaged in a mission of cultural promotion, developing publication projects with the publishers Punto e Virgola, founded in 1978, in parallel with staging exhibits such as Iconicittà (1980), Viaggio in Italia (An Italian Journey -1984) and Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia (Explorations along Via Emilia – 1986) which placed him at the centre of heated debates. During that period he forged friendships with Gianni Celati, Lucio Dalla, Vittorio Savi and other Italian intellectuals.
Through his privately and publicly commissioned work he expressed himself throughout the Eighties as an interpreter of Italian architecture and landscape, collaborating with “Lotus International”. In 1985 he was invited by Aldo Rossi to work on the architecture section of the Venice Biennale and in 1988 he curated the photography section of the Photography Triennale in Milan. In 1989 he published Paesaggio italiano (Italian Landscape) and II profilo delle nuvole (The Profile of the Clouds), and from 1990 he started working on Giorgio Morandi’s home-studio.
The archive of Ghirri’s negatives and slides is conserved at the Photo Library of the Panizzi public library in Reggio Emilia.

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