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A pioneer of colour photography in Europe: Museum Folkwang presents Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri
Luigi Ghirri, Moden, 1979.

ESSEN.- The exhibition The Map and the Territory at the Museum Folkwang is the first more comprehensive museum survey of Luigi Ghirri’s photographs presented outside his native Italy. Focusing on the 1970s, the exhibition charts a decade in which Ghirri (1943–1992) created a body of colour photographs without parallel in the Europe in that time.

Trained as a surveyor, Ghirri began to photograph at weekends in the early 1970s, roaming the streets, squares and suburbs of Modena, imagining projects and themes. “I’m interested in ephemeral architecture, the world of the provinces, objects that are considered bad taste that for me never have been so, objects charged with desires, dreams, collective memories… windows, mirrors, stars, palm trees, atlases, globes, books, museums and people through images,“ Ghirri stated. He looked attentively and affectionately at the signs of the exterior world, observing but not overtly commenting on the man-made landscape and habitats of his native Reggio Emilia, a provincial barometer of a vernacular environment changing through the appearance of different forms of housing, leisure and advertising.

Through the 1970s, Ghirri took thousands of images and developed a distinctive style and conceptual framework for presenting the work. This first decade culminated in two significant moments: the publication in 1978 of Kodachrome, one of the truly exceptional photographic books of the decade; and the presentation of a major exhibition, Vera Fotografia in Parma in 1979 which surveyed Ghirri’s singular body of work through fourteen different projects and themes.

The Map and the Territory reprises the poetic cartography of Ghirri’s 1979 exhibition. Around 300 photographs, subdivided into 15 workgroups, reflect Ghirri’s enduring fascination with representations of the world, in the form of reproductions, pictures, posters, models and maps and the way these representations were embedded in the world, signs within the town or the landscape. The mediation of experience through images in an Italy poised between the old and the new was, for Ghirri, an inexhaustible terrain to survey. In the face of today’s media change and media usage, Ghirri’s imagery demonstrates a more than surprising freshness and relevance.

Curator: James Lingwood

The exhibition is organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, in collaboration with the Museum Folkwang, Essen, and the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris.

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