Olivo Barbieri, Images 1978 -2014 at MAXXI (until January 10th, 2016)


Photos   Olivo Barbieri

“I’ve never been interested in photography but in images. My work begins where photography ends.”

In this brief statement, Olivo Barbieri synthesizes his aesthetic philosophy. His pictures of urban landscapes, which at first sight may appear to be simple bird-eye’s view documentations of places we all know -  the Colosseum, the Las Vegas Strip, Downtown Houston - become, upon closer inspection, purified topographical icons. Through the use of an advanced tilt-shift technique called selective focus, Barbieri redirects the focus of the picture towards unusual points while blurring and de-emphasizing the more obvious ones. 

 The effect is plastic stillness. The landmarks together with the figures that populate it look like miniature models typically used in architecture. The viewer is estranged from familiar locations and is forced to see them as liminal objects - as hyperreal avatars of the known - between fabrication and detailed reporting. In more recent series such as site specific 03_13, Barbieri replaces three-dimensional elements of the picture with their two-dimensional monochromatic drawn counterparts in order to foreground the urban planning of our environments and underscore the idea that, after all, the world is not as definitive as we assume while we wander through our cities. 

In Parks 2006-2014 the negatives and positives of the photographs are mixed; the same amount of information is maintained, but the sublime of nature is dismissed in favor of a postcard-like graphic beauty. In his art, places lose their powerful atmospheres and are instead shrunken into toy landscapes to be re-imagined and re-fetishized.

The retrospective is exhibited in a very fitting location: MAXXI is an art space where “walls become floors and even threaten to become ceilings, diving and curving like bobsleigh track...It is restless and not graspable from any fixed point.” The retrospective goes until January 10th 2016, and is a perfect opportunity to experience contemporary art in the Eternal City.


For more information on Olivo Barbieri’s photography and projects click here.

For more information on the retrospective at MAXXI click here.

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