A New Exhibition at Rome's Maxxi Museum Lauds the Italian Photographer’s Early Works
A weeping willow tree blends into the night, a child’s dress hangs out to dry from a modernist window frame—it’s all in the surrealist eye of the late Luigi Ghirri. One of Italy’s pioneering contemporary photographers, Ghirri was an early adopter of color film and became known for his hazy hued depictions during the 1970’s that focused mostly on the landscapes and architecture of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Now, more than 300 of his vintage shots, as well as a selection of previously unseen prints, are brought together in the show Luigi Ghirri: Thinking Through Images, opening at Maxxi Museo Nazionale della Arti del XX1 Secolo in Rome on April 24. While Ghirri exhibited widely during his lifetime, it wasn’t until after his death in 1992 that the photographer really won acclaim in international circles, including the 2010 exhibition La Carte d’Après Nature, a group show at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York that was inspired by Magritte and curated by Thomas Demand. Ghirri’s work will also be included in this year’s upcoming Venice Biennale.
Luigi Ghirri: Thinking Through Images will run through October 27, 2013.
Malcolm Venville's Crusade to Pose a Single Question to the Illustrious Designer at His Alpine Exhibition
There aren’t many people who you’d endure several flights, two long train journeys, exceedingly early wake-up calls and a soggy McDonald’s hamburger dinner to spend one minute with—but that’s how powerful the pull of fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld can be. And that pilgrimage is exactly what director Malcolm Venville undertook for a brief encounter with the Chanel and Fendi designer, artist, photographer and one-man cultural phenomenon in St. Moritz in February, where the polymath was revealing an exhibition at Galerie Gmurzynska. The series featured Lagerfeld’s new set of fire etchings on glass—based on portraits of his muses such as Theophilus London, Freja Beha Erichsen and Aymeline Valade—and evolved the Kaiser’s extraordinary photographic legacy, which has yielded not only a multitude of ad campaigns, but also groundbreaking books like The Metamorphosis of an American and The Beauty of Violence, both of which distilled the model-to-muse relationship, focusing respectively on male faces Brad Koenig and Baptiste Giabiconi. Navigating the alpine VIP frenzy, filmmaker Venville came straight up against the unrealistic expectations of the Kaiser’s media and creative schedule. Hence he delivered just one potent question, appealing to Lagerfeld’s savoir faire. “To borrow from Hamlet,” says Venville, “brevity is the soul of wit, and he couldn’t be more interesting in that respect.” The director would know, having helmed the films 44 Inch Chest starring John Hurt and Ray Winstone and Henry’s Crime with Keanu Reeves. “I felt there was a lot of power in his answer,” he says of Lagerfeld. “It’s all about the artistic process being intuitive and spontaneous.”
The Photography Legend Turns a Sensual Lens to Tokyo’s Annual Floral Explosion
Known for his darkly erotic portraits of women and his suggestive shots of flowers, Japan’s prolific Nobuyoshi Araki set out to harness the stunning cherry blossom season in Tokyo for this exclusive series. An annual occurrence in the Japanese capital and the center of centuries of local tradition and literary inspiration, the sakura flower has very rarely featured in Araki’s oeuvre. This year, as the trees bloomed early in Tokyo, the celebrated lensman used vintage Polaroid film, framing the vibrant pink flowers’ silhouettes with a distinctive, pitch-dark corroded border. Shot amid the petals at Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens and Aoyama Cemetery, the results seem to reflect the traditional Japanese interpretation of the cherry tree as an enduring metaphor for the cyclical nature of life itself. “The city’s skyscrapers appeared as gigantic tomb stones in the background,” Araki explains of his melancholic urban florals. “Then at the graveyard I photographed a beautiful woman with a baby in her arms and another child happily running around the trees. For the first time, I realized that cherry blossom brings happy memories too.”
Do you go to see the cherry trees in bloom every year?
Nobuyoshi Araki: I hardly ever go, but I’m still very attracted to it. The flowers only blossom for one to two weeks out of the whole year, which creates this ephemeral quality. People sympathize with that.
What attracts you to the cherry blossoms in particular?
Araki: Flowers are there for me to love, and cherry blossoms are the top of their kind. I can’t quite put my affection for them into words, and that’s why it continues to hold a special place in my photographs. When standing under the old trees, the layers of flower petals look like women’s underwear, transparent to the sky above.
How do you feel these Polaroids stand out from your previous work on the subject?
Araki: They are completely different. In recent years I have experienced the tragedy in Fukushima, the threat of the nuclear power station and the passing away of a very close friend. I believe that that emotional proximity to death brought a different dimension to my work this year. Photography has never been a method of documentation for me, but a reflection of raw feelings and sensations born out of my experiences. This is why I only trust my libido—instead of "thinking" about photography, which is something I completely gave up some time ago. I don't analyze the situation; I capture the moment.