Friday, March 21, 2014

Guido Guidi, Veramente, Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson

Guido Guidi, Veramente, Pesaro, Baia, Flaminia, 2005 

When I read a review of this exhibition, I heard of Guido Guidi for the first time. The little known Italian artist is fascinated with spaces on the periphery, walls that we would normally pass by, spaces with no apparent identity. In one of the series on exhibition at the Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson, Guidi travels from Poland to Spain, through Belgium and France, recording what he calls “peri-urban spaces,” making visible spaces that are undefined, apparent non-spaces. We are struck by the similarity of these spaces: what we see in Calais could easily be seen in a small town deep in Poland which could, in turn, be found in Venice or Trieste. There is no resemblance to the cities that tourists flock to, the places which we would usually associate with the names of the places photographed by Guidi. Guidi has consciously chosen trans-geographic, non-locatable spaces, and emphasized their barrenness with his camera. 

Guido Guidi, Polonia, Eblag, 1984
The subject of Guidi’s photographs can be said to be the texture of surfaces. In them we see perfect compositions, structurally very precise, and because of the sparsity of their subject matter, these are images that leave very little possibility for chance appearances and disappearances. The world photographed by Guidi appears static. The lighting is often very high key, adding to the silence and emptiness of the spaces and places. To some extent the lighting enhances the flatness, particularly when there are people in the image. However, where there are only walls, paths, surfaces, the surface is rich with texture and vibrant with a multiplicity of shades and coloured hues. This intensity is what, I think, makes them romantic visions of otherwise empty walls.

Guido Guidi
Apparently Guidi claims the influence of the Italian neo-Realists, of Pasolini, Antonioni as well as Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander. It’s true that Guidi’s work is in that vein of the world that is otherwise left invisible. However, I couldn’t help seeing Guidi’s work as romantic where his filmic and photographic predecessors do nothing of the sort. As I say, I attribute the romanticism to the richness and clarity of the colour film strip used by Guido. Not that the surfaces and empty spaces are warm, but the colours are nuanced, foregrounded and given personalities. Neo-realism was interested to put people in an environment, in long shot, leaving them to narrate a story that is more important than their individual struggle. However, when Guidi places people in these abandoned, or uninhabited spaces, they are given aesthetic qualities, not particularly identifiable as having a greater political significance beyond their individuality. Similarly, in the few portraits included in the exhibition, I thought I might find an August Sander typing, but the photographs tell us little about the people, their professions, their histories.

Guido Guidi, Silvia, Italy, 28.10.2002

As a body of work, I didn’t see much development across the course of Guidi’s career, and neither did I see a major statement inside the photographs, one that might ask me to mourn the loss or abandonment of these empty spaces. Some of the photographs create sumptuous spaces and places, it is true, but at the end of the exhibition, I was left wondering what the larger, more urgent intention of these images was.

All Images Copyright Guido Guidi

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