Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guest Review By Heyward Hart of Luigi Ghirri @ Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles

Another posthumous show of photographs by Luigi Ghirri, La Città at Matthew Marks Gallery feels a bit overt coming in from the West Hollywood streets. This is the West Coast’s first exhibition devoted entirely to Ghirri and as if to prove the point, La Città culls 19 pictures from his archive that bear a distinct likeness to the landscape and architecture of Los Angeles. Granted, this is not a difficult task for one familiar with Ghirri’s work. The omission of his popular beach and palm pictures is a welcome measure of restraint while the occasional nod to Hollywood’s culture industry is impossible to pass up. But rather than grounding us in Italy’s early 1970s, the tawny veil on these vintage c-prints places us squarely in L.A.’s smoggy basin.

A Thomas Demand, hanging in the back room across from two more Ghirris, is a knowing coda that provides the missing touch of Los Angeles gloss (thank you Diasec process) and reminds us of Ghirri’s prominence in La Carte d'Après Nature curated by Demand just a few years ago.

Fortunately for us, all this gimmickry is simply the pretext to present a group of good pictures. Modestly sized, slightly discolored, immaculately framed, it is difficult to separate the images from the objects here. Their presence is obvious yet problematic, one begins to wonder if there is some false charm in their recent antiquity that is confusing the issue (cue Instagram filter). But the clarity of vision that these pictures present overwhelms the tinge of vintage/hipster/indie/boho-ism. Their perceptual dexterity and dry humor—Ghirri moves easily between formal invention and straight bon mot—insist the photographer was not content to rely on the passage of time to lend his pictures significance.

Through Jun. 21st

By Heyward Hart


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