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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

The Good Earth at Keith de Lellis

The Good Earth at Keith de Lellis

Image above: ©Ezio Quiresi, La Mia Citta, Casolari, c. 1955 / Courtesy of Keith de Lellis Gallery

With upbringings rooted in traditional values, the photographers of postwar Italy considered the landscape to be an integral part of their lives and photographic practice. For these photographers, the Italian landscape served as a symbol for life, religion, and their reverence for their homeland. Ranging from the representational to the abstract, their depictions of their surroundings share an inclination towards experimentation with composition, contrast, and repetition.

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Image above: ©Guiseppe Goffis, Il Raccolto, c. 1965 / Courtesy of Keith de Lellis Gallery

The Good Earth features vintage photographs created by seventeen image-makers from towns and cities on the North and Adriatic Coasts of Italy: Valentino Bassanini, Gianni Berengo-Gardin, Ulisse Bezzi, Augusto Cantamessa, Tino Carretto, Romeo Casadei, Arturo Crescini, Ferruccio Ferroni, Eros Fiammetti, Guiseppe Goffis, Carlo Monari, Enzo Passaretti, Santo Piano, Ezio Quiresi, Pietro Todo, Piero Vistali, and Umberto Vittori.

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Image above: ©Ferruccio Ferroni, Vapori Cromatici, 1953 / Courtesy of Keith de Lellis Gallery

These photographers shared a familiarity with and affection towards their subject matter. Their deep understanding of their surroundings allowed them to capture the landscape from the best positions at the ideal time of day to create stunning images. These photographs highlight the patterns, textures, and natural light that make the Italian landscape unique. When the human figure appears in the photographs, their relationship with the land is key. They admire the ocean, walk the dirt paths, or harvest food.

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Image above: ©Augusto Cantamessa, Untitled, c. 1960 / Courtesy of Keith de Lellis Gallery

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this collection of photographs is the wide range of emotions they elicit. From peaceful to foreboding, the landscape as depicted by these photographers is able to instill happiness, calm, fear, and wonder in its viewers.

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Image above: ©Mario Giacomelli, Metamorphosis of the Land, 1955-1968 / Courtesy of Keith de Lellis Gallery

The cornerstone artist of the exhibition, Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) sought out and even sometimes created abstract qualities in the Italian landscape. Shying away from more traditional and representational views of the land, Giacomelli's photographs transform the familiar into the foreign through distance, pattern, and stark contrast. With formal training as a typesetter, Giacomelli's graphic compositions come as no surprise. His work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Good Earth (La Buona Terra): Postwar Italian Landscape Photography by Mario Giacomelli & His Contemporaries is on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery until May 7, 2016 at 1045 Madison Avenue, #3, New York, New York
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