Francesco Neri: 
19 Jan–16 Mar 2024

This exhibition marks Italian photographer Francesco Neri’s London debut and the first presentation of a body of work made over the last two years in the tiny hamlet of Boncellino near to his home town of Faenza in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna. Faenza is surrounded by an abundant, cultivated landscape, farmed since Roman times with fruits and vegetables, vines and cereals. Increasingly, though, its rural villages are experiencing the deadening effects of depopulation and ecological degradation.

Boncellino is the latest iteration of what has become a prolonged study of the agrarian communities of Neri’s native region. The study was catalysed in 2009 by an encounter with a local farmer Livio Papi. With their meeting, Neri found the key to unlock his own deep sense of connection to place. Through the portraiture of the region’s people, and more specifically, his photographic interaction with them, he saw the route “to understand where I am from”. Like many photographers who focus on what is closest to them, the project is in one sense also an evolving self-portrait. Neri returns to photograph people - and the buildings they have made - again and again, “to retrace my steps and see how things and people have changed. I too have changed in turn.” As the work grows, the photographer and his subjects age together, and the photographic project itself becomes a record of the passage of time. 

Excerpt from the introduction written by Kate Bush.

Part of the exhibition is a new portfolio, ‘Wooden Tool Shed’, comprising 8 gelatin silver contact prints and an accompanying book with further illustrations, alongside a new text by David Campany, produced by Imagebeeld Edition, Brussels.

Kate Bush is an independent curator and writer. Her previous roles include Senior Curator of Photography, Tate Britain; Head of Media Space; and Head of Art Galleries, Barbican.

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Paris Photo 2023

9–12 Nov 2023
Guido Guidi: View Into Landscape

Large Glass (London) and Viasaterna (Milan) presented a solo presentation of works by the renowned Italian photographer Guido Guidi at Paris Photo 2023. With a focus on landscape, we made a selection in collaboration with Guidi encompassing 50 years (1972- 2023). Guido Guidi is one of Italy’s most respected photographers, with a career spanning more than five decades. Neorealist film and conceptual art have played a significant role in shaping his unsentimental but also intensely personal vision. He has mostly focused his lens on rural and suburban geographies close to his home and occasionally wider afield in Europe.

“View into Landscape” draws on the underlying vision in his work, the transformation of contemporary landscape, the rural and urban terrain near his home in Cesena and around Italy. Guidi is a key figure in a group of photographers, born in the 1940s who in the 1970/80s were establishing links between photography and other disciplines from literature to architecture, from city planning to sociology and anthropology in order to consciously shape the cultural significance of Italian photography. We take a journey through Guidi’s rural, industrial and personal landscapes, shot on 35mm, medium and large format 8x10” film, and presented here as C -type and Gelatin silver prints (both vintage and contemporary).

Main Section, Booth B06
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris
Guido Guidi

press: Large Glass
sales: Charlotte Schepke

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Stepping Stones: Three Photographic Journeys

27 Sep—10 Nov 2023
Extended to 30 Nov
Stepping Stones: Three Photographic Journeys connects the work of three photographers: Gerry Johansson, Guido Guidi and Mark Ruwedel. Focusing on a specific journey by each artist, three distinct conceptual, and personal, approaches to capturing place unfold – whether with a care for the overlooked, finding intimacy in one’s everyday surroundings, or surveying humankind’s effect on the landscape.

Gerry Johansson realised his series Motel Prints (1983) during a coast-to-coast long trip, beginning in Los Angeles in May 1983 and ending in New York, via Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to Memphis, meeting with renowned photographers of the time, Robert Adams, Richard Benson, Gary Winogrand and William Eggleston, among others. Taking photographs daily with his 8x10” camera, he would develop film in the evening in his motel rooms, making contact prints from select negatives by placing a glass plate on top of the printing paper and turning on the room light for a few seconds. This significant year of experimentation and artistic research across the US led Johansson to dedicate his career full-time to photography.

Central to Johansson’s presentation is a new portfolio, ‘Coast to Coast’, comprising 10 gelatin silver contact prints and an accompanying booklet produced by Imagebeeld Edition, Brussels. These images, shot in black and white, pay careful attention to the varying landscapes and architectures Johansson encountered on his journey. In an excerpt from the booklet, Johansson asks: ‘Did I learn anything during this process? Yes, I think so. For the first time, I was able to spend a lot of time photographing and evaluating my work. It is one thing to believe that you have taken some good photographs and something else to be confronted with lots of mistakes and bad choices and the occasional interesting picture.’

In May 1974, a newlywed Guido Guidi travelled to Sardinia with his wife Marta, instinctively capturing an unfamiliar landscape, shooting with his Nikon camera. While his peers were focused on portraiture, Guidi immortalised bollards, the backs of flaking houses, old gates, external doors, bushes and stones. As Irina Zucca Alessandrelli writes, Guidi’s ‘truth is anonymous and invisible to the eyes of the majority.’ And as with Johansson’s unconventional means of processing, Guidi also experimented with solarising his images, using lemon juice for instance to transform his black and white images into fluorescent colours, or using cardboard sheets with small holes in them to direct light onto certain parts of the print. As Antonello Frongia writes of the series:

‘Seen side by side, coupled by the black frame which joins them, these simple sequential snapshots look like impersonal records of a nine-teenth-century topographer, or like experiments in description, or even like two meditations on photography's genres and styles: elevation and cross section of a landscape, perspectival narration and formal reduction, reportage on the road and analytic abstraction.’

Mark Ruwedel describes his Ice Age series (1995-2003) as ‘a study of human activity in the context of the Pleistocene lakes which once covered large portions of the arid American West.’

It brings together photographs that record the evidence of both prehistoric and contemporary cultures within the landscape as well as the ways in which these settlements and activities have left visible marks on it. Ruwedel focused his camera on prehistoric trails, sleeping and ceremonial circles, and intaglios, all of which were shaped by the placement and displacement of stones in vast, open plains. As Ann Thomas writes:

‘Ruwedel's superb narrative about the land is a journey through time. It is about historical memory and geological evidence. It uses the essential human tools of the imagination and the making of inventories to situate us in a new relationship to our place and time. Unlike geological diagrams which fill in with hand drawn lines the missing information about separated continental plates or dried up inland seas, and direct our attention to particular areas of interest with arrows, Ruwedel's photographs challenge the human imagination to make the links between the past and the present independently.’

Throughout their journeys, walking as much in the footsteps of their predecessors as finding new pathways in photography, these three artists focus on the signs of a human presence, whether implied, evoked, or documented. Their distinct styles come together through their dedicated observations of the places they, and we, move through, looking closely and attentively to capture what is left behind, overlooked and unnoticed.

Stepping Stones: Three Photographic Journeys is co-curated by Jean-Paul Deridder.

Jean-Paul Deridder writes and teaches on art and photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. He was the co-founder and Director at Fondation A Stichting, Brussels from 2012 to 2020 where he curated numerous exhibitions including Judith Joy Ross, Mitch Epstein, Lewis Baltz, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lee Friedlander, Jo Ratcliffe, Facundo de Zuviria, Guido Guidi, Paolo Gasparini and Nicholas Nixon. In 2022, he founded Imagebeeld Edition, a new publishing project of portfolios and books.

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Ursula Schulz-Dornburg: Memoryscapes

13 May—1 Jul 2023
Memoryscapes is a solo exhibition by the German artist Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, realised in collaboration with Lucy Rogers.

In 2012, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg travelled to north-eastern Kazakhstan to photograph the remains of the Soviet Union’s largest nuclear weapons programme. Located in a vast area south-west of the city of Kurchatov, Opytnoe Pole was once a top-secret open-air laboratory, used to measure and record the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. Taken almost twenty years after the closure of the facility, Schulz-Dornburg’s photographs portray a desolate landscape, devoid of life and still suffering the effects of radiation. The area was looted after its closure in 1991 – an act which inadvertently dispersed radioactive material across the continent – and later subject to an intensive clean-up operation by the Kazakh, Russian and US authorities. It is a landscape still laden with the artefacts of an architecture built to be destroyed.

Born in Berlin in 1938, Schulz-Dornburg grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War – in a divided Germany and an era defined by new borders in Europe and elsewhere. Since the 1970s, she has sought out places of transit and borderlands, locations geographically and politically caught up in a state of in-between, where multiple layers of history intersect, co-exist and collide. Reflecting the lands in which she has travelled, her archive reveals a constellation which extends beyond the scope of individual images – an entanglement of narratives which overlap in time and space. Exhibitions and publications become a method for thinking through the archive, bringing together new and familiar works into new combinations and sequences.

In 2000, Schulz-Dornburg visited the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic, carrying with her a small ixus camera. Here she encountered elaborate dioramas, carefully constructed scenes taken from the history of polar exploration. The museum first opened during the boom in Soviet Arctic exploration in the 1930s. Like the space and arms race which followed, the polar regions were subject to fierce rivalry and competition in the rush to colonise and exploit their valuable natural resources. The scenes photographed by Schulz-Dornburg depict the USSR’s technological prowess through their involvement in ‘heroic’ rescue missions, feeding into a nationalistic narrative. Yet ships like the one seen in these photographs were used to transport prisoners, many of whom suffered or lost their lives in uninhabitable conditions. 

In 2023, these works resonate with new meaning in the echoes and reverberations of the past as it appears in the present. Recent years have seen a return of the same hopes, ambitions and anxieties experienced in the 20th century, albeit in new forms and under new conditions. Reading Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’s work in the cold light of the present reveals not so much a prediction of the future but an anticipation, a speculation on factors which may (or may not) fleetingly coincide, and the need for resistance.

Lucy Rogers is currently writing her PhD on the archive of Ursula Schulz-Dornburg at University of Westminster. 

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg

press: Edward Ball
sales: Charlotte Schepke
other: Large Glass

Financial Times Magazine: ‘Gallery, Photograph by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg’, Josh Lustig, 24/25 June 2023

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small mirror: Helen Mirra

16 Mar—5 May 2023
small mirror is Helen Mirra’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. It includes a selection of ‘non-redundant repetitions and benign regressions’, made between 2003 and 2023.

Helen Mirra’s practice has consistently been formally minimal, using simple materials while engaged with maximal ideas about perception and participation as a person on this particular planet. After a number of years making discrete works in various materials, and considering various subjects, her present rhythm is still epitomised in walking.

Every Surface to Come
Cherry Smyth

‘No one uses running water for a mirror.’(1)

Walk backwards. Take care not to fall, or bump into things. The body adjusts, or is it the ground? The feet land and the leg muscles work differently. The back body activates. The skull leans as if to see. What was thought-less becomes very focussed, directing each step. You can no longer read the signs: some other path-finding must come into play. There is no choice but to decelerate. There is no choice.

‘having done something harmless, repeat’(2)

Many of Helen Mirra’s works operate as path-finders that create their own signs. If, as Buddhism attests, ‘where there is a sign, there is deception’, Mirra looks beyond the outer form of things towards signlessness, one of the doors of liberation in every Buddhist tradition. The ink drawings of walking trail signposts in California, are written in mirror writing, as if we are looking from behind the sign, through it. Rather than orientate, they disorientate. If rainbows need rain, is the sign to Rainbow Falls, already a legacy sign?  What was its indigenous name?  The path was once read in rocks, the slope of mountain, the cast of the sun.  The signs pull you in opposing directions: the past of brutally erased names; the future of ongoing, oncoming loss. McCloud Lake is a reservoir, a dammed lake, created for hydroelectric power, trademarked by the ‘Mc’ that conjures Scottish and Irish settlers. If wilderness needs a permit, its status is revoked.                                             
‘delightful are forests unintended for delight’(3)

Mirra follows the transient arrows of fallen pine needles. They point from somewhere no one else can go, to a nowhere anyone can go. In their analogue tracking, brief observations are typed on cotton bands, the width of 16mm film stock, hand-painted in ‘colours in the realm of tree-ness.’(4). These beautiful moment maps set up Mirra’s own continuum, a sequence of instances of belonging and letting go.

‘the absence
of a thingin the presence
of its name

If the pine needle collages act as loose sentences, Mirra pulls what she calls the art and science of walking into a calendar of text and image in the ‘walking comma’ series. Morning sun picks out a quartz rock, a twiggy ground, marking human time against geological time: a palm holding a rock. These photo/texts form indexes of perception: light bleach, height reached, a pause: sun down behind the mountains, a wrist in a shirtsleeve and sweater.

‘One day it will stop:
the air will stop, the light will stop.’(6)

To baffle is to confound but also to muffle sound.
Mirra’s ‘paragrafs’ stand out by their muteness. Their failed shelves hint at functionality, again suggest legacy: an old lacquered desk, a wool cape, the felt pads on the legs of furniture. They exude an air of devotion and care: something precious is wrapped here, felted against cold, against knocks; protected by materials from a time when safe meant it. How far back is that?

Just as ‘para-graphein’ once meant the mark denoting a new section of writing, but came to be applied to the new section itself, so these objects acts as signs that have changed sense. They resemble heirloom holders that have lost their heirlooms. Think of a jeweller’s shop window after closing and all the display units are empty, some shaped in the elegance of a neck and clavicle. Here, ancestors are referenced but unreachable. The index, and its knowledge, closes up on itself.

(1) Confucius, quoted in The Essential Chuang Tzu, ed.& trans. Sam Hammill & J.P. Seaton, Shambala: Boston, 1998
(2) Dp 118, Dhammapada via Fronsdal, 2006, quoted in good nothing, Helen Mirra, Merve Verlag: Leipzig, 2021
(3) Ibid. Dp 99
(4) Helen Mirra quoted in Edge Habitat Materials, White Walls Inc.: Chicago, 2014
(5) Thomas A. Clark, The Threadbare Coat, Carcanet: Manchester, 2020, p.78
(6) Sean Borodale, from ‘Hot Bright, Visionary Flies’, Inmates, Cape: London, 2021

Cherry Smyth is an Irish writer, living in London.
She has published five poetry collections and one novel. She writes regularly for Art Monthly.
Hendl Helen Mirra

press: Edward Ball
sales: Charlotte Schepke
other: Large Glass

Photos: Stephen White & Co

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