SAN SEBASTIÁN.- The Artegunea gallery
in San Sebastián is hosting Gente del Po, a project by the photographer Begoña Zubero that takes an approach to the natural and human landscape around the river Po in Italy that is both personal and documentary. The exhibition, curated by Enrique Martínez Lombó, consists of 94 photographs printed on a range of materials and divided into 3 series (Le sponde, Le capanne and Paesaggio industriale), as well as a copy of Cinema magazine issue 68, a hut and two video installations (Dal Ponte and Pontelagoscuro). The exhibition will run from 7th April to 2nd July 2017.
The series presented here by Begoña Zubero is the result of her last four years living in Italy. The project emerged following her discovery of Michelangelo Antonioni's side as a photographer, thanks to the pictures accompanying his article Per un film sul fiume Po, published in 1939 in the legendary Cinema magazine. In it he asked whether the way to return to the physical and human topography of the river that belonged to the landscape of his youth should be through documentary or fiction. Zubero takes up this idea in the form of a photographic approach to the places explored by Antonioni, resulting in a complex visual universe in which the landscape takes a leading role through photography, sculpture, video and installation.
The installation Dal Ponte, for example, goes beyond the concept of photography by subtly including movement, current and course in an installation on twin screens showing two shots of static sequences with considerable depth of field, with clear cinematic allusions. It is a piece with clear references to the figure of Anonioni in that it features a male voice reading the text of Per un film sul fiume Po. The show also features a full-size hut to complete the series Le capanne, because the sculptural quality of these constructions led Zubero to come up with this separate piece, in cooperation with the sculptor Begoña Goyenetxea
With regard to the view of landscape in Zubero's work, it can be seen as a break from her previous work only in terms of its formal side, as the underlying idea is the same one she had previously worked on in her Existenz project, a journey through the architecture of power in the totalitarian regimes of 20th-century Europe, in which she explores the importance of the idea of the record and memory.
This time she does not do it by means of monumental buildings but through images in which nature and the river play a leading role, making them custodians of the collective identity, memory and imagination.
The absence of the human figure does not stop the epic of everyday life making its presence felt in Begoña Zubero's photographs through the imprint made on the natural environment by human activity, from huts built by fishermen to the chimneys that feature in industrial landscapes.
The interesting tension generated between the aesthetic/pictorial - though not pictorialist - intention, which shares the classic conception of landscape as an exponent of the art of contemplation, and the more expansive, post-conceptual terrain of contemporary art that came into landscape photography in the United States as a result of the New Topographics movement of the mid-seventies (which had its greatest expression in Europe in the Düsseldorf School), adds interest and complexity to this work, blazing new trails for future exploration.
Begoña Zubero (Bilbao, 1962) trained as a photographer in Madrid (Complutense University) and New York (School of Visual Arts), where she lived and worked for four years. She currently lives and works in Bilbao.
Since her earliest projects she has practised a photography based on impeccable technical, formal and aesthetic standards, in which documentation and research have enabled her to create images of enormous intellectual depth.
Following her time in New York, where she can still be seen trying out new languages, she worked in the 90s on still life, either found or assembled, in which she already displays the enormous possibilities of talking about human themes through objects, without showing any people. This is a feature that resurfaces precisely in the Gente del Po exhibition, in which Zubero displays her particular skill at telling without explicitly showing, approaching objects and places with great sensitivity.
In previous series she worked on themes like Flowers or Abstractions, but since the year 2000, when she took part in the 7x7x7 project to commemorate the seven hundredth anniversary of the founding of Bilbao, she has moved into open spaces: Rome, Berlin, Poland, Russia, Armenia and now the river Po.
The choice of places is not in her case a purely aesthetic question, but often they are locations that witnessed events or actions of great importance. They are series that interact with historical memory through landscape and architecture. She speaks to us, then, of the human imprint on the environment, of the revelation of a story in the visible signs in each place.
She has given workshops on photography and photo screen printing at galleries (the Bilbao museum of fine art and the Guggenheim in New York and Bilbao). Since the 80s she has staged numerous individual and collective exhibitions. To name but a few: North by North at the 4th Floor Gallery in Manchester in 2001 or España en Romaat the Cervantes institute in Rome in 2003. She has also created stills for several films: Sálvate si puedes (1994), Hotel y domicilio (1995) and Menos que cero (1995).
Her work is present in private and institutional collections including those of the Fundación Ordoñez Falcó, Fundación Museo Artium de Vitoria-Gasteiz, Vitoria-Gasteiz city council, Fundación Bilbao Arte, Bizkaia provincial authority, Museo CívicoIrpino (Balatia, Italy) and the Basque Government.
In 2006 she won the Pilar Citoler international photography prize in Cordoba.