Artist portraits: Scheidegger face-to-face with Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti and others

Artist portraits: Scheidegger face-to-face with Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti and others

Giorgia Massari · 2 months ago · Photography

MASI Lugano‘s exhibition season opens with a tribute to photographer Ernst Scheidegger, friend of artists and collaborator with Magnum Photo. A frequent visitor to the Parisian avant-garde art scene, Scheiddeger is known for his portraits of artists, above all Alberto Giacometti, his great friend, but-also Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Hans Arp and Max Bill, among others. The exhibition places “face to face” – as the title of the exhibition curated by Tobia Bezzola and Taisse Grandi Venturi reads – Scheiddeger’s photographs with the works of the protagonists of 20th-century Art, whom he himself frequented and portrayed as a photojournalist. The exhibition consists of two nuclei. The first, devoted entirely to the photographer, features a body of unpublished shots selected from his archive and printed from scratch. The second places his famous artist portraits in dialogue with their own works.

Ernst Scheidegger, Donna con bassotuba all’esterno di un tendone da circo, ca. 1949 © Stiftung Ernst Scheiddeger-Archiv, Zurich

Linking the two exhibition nuclei is Alberto Giacometti, «Ernst’s most recurring model as well as his great friend,» explains curator Taisse Grandi Venturi, «The two met in 1943 in Maloja, during his military service, and then met again in Paris during the 1950s and 1960s.» It is Giacometti’s own voice that welcomes the public to the exhibition, from the documentary film made by Scheiddeger in the artist’s atelier, documenting the creative process.

Ernst Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti dipinge Isaku Yanaihara nel suo studio parigino, 1959 © Stiftung Ernst Scheiddeger-Archiv, Zurich; © Succession Alberto Giacometti / 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich

«There is a young photographer from Zurich, Scheidegger, who a few years ago took a lot of pictures of the sculptures in the atelier here with me, etc.,” he said. Now he is preparing a booklet, and there is a publisher in Zurich, a young one, who is publishing it. The book, I’ve seen the layout, it’s very, very nice, and I really want it to come out, because [Scheidegger] has put his all into it. It’s a bit like a reportage, but really special.»

– Lettera di Alberto Giacometti a Pierre Matisse, 11 maggio 1957

Who’s Ernst Scheiddeger? 

Swiss by birth, Ernst Scheidegger (1923 – 2016) was an eclectic artistic figure. Painter, graphic designer, editor, filmmaker, publisher and gallery owner, but above all photographer. He trained at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich, where he took classes with Max Bill, who would later become his great friend, but it was his work with Werner Bischof that took him to Paris in 1949. There he met Giacometti again and began assiduously frequenting the ateliers of avant-garde artists. A few years later he is hired by Magnum Photo as a photojournalist, but in ’56, with the tragic death of the two founders Bischof and Capa, Ernst, greatly shaken, will leave the business to accept a professorship at the Hocheschule für Gestaltung in Ulm. From this point on, his language changes, relating back to his youthful studies; in addition to photography, it includes graphic design, exhibition and book design, films and documentaries. Later he also founded his own publishing house, Scheidegger & Spiess, which is still active.

Alberto Giacometti, Ritratto Ernst Scheiddeger, ca. 1959, olio su tela © Succession Alberto Giacometti / 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich

Early works

To surprise are first the unpublished shots in which his interest in the human being is evident, then the faces of the artists who have marked the history of 20th-century art – in dialogue with some of their lesser-known works. In this initial body of work, Ernst is in search of his own style. Strong contrasts of light and shadow embrace the subjects of his shots, passersby, inhabitants of the places that the photographer traverses between one documentary journey and another. With a documentary gaze, Ernst immortalizes a society still shaken by war but eager for rebirth. «The grain of the film often coarse, situations of strong contrast, unclear or blurred outlines, daring under- and overexposures, distorted perspectives, and truncated motifs show a young photographer who has first decided to forget everything he learned during his years of training,» reads the text by curator Tobia Bezzola, «The world he shows us is never truly bright, but when the light happens, it becomes immediately blinding. This repertoire of harshly characterized motifs encompasses many classic themes of post-war photographic and cinematic neorealism: the reflection of stage lights on the faces of artists and circus clowns, the cheap thrills of the fair and the amusement park, the lively popular life that animates the streets of Southern Europe, street children, the Salvation Army, festivals, and workers’ demonstrations. In those silent observations of a photography flâneur, everyday reality is captured with poetic hints and strong social emphasis.»

Ernst Scheiddeger, Bambini nel Sud Italia, ca. 1948, © Stiftung Ernst Scheiddeger-Archiv, Zurich

The artist portraits

From Hans Arp, Max Bill, Serge Brignoni, to Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Oskar Kokoschka, but also Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Verena Loewensberg, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and many others. Ernst Scheidegger photographs most of the artists of the Paris scene. His portraits are almost always commissioned, published in magazines and illustrated volumes, one of the most active patrons being the Parisian gallery Maeght. Scheidegger’s shots are never “glossy,” the situations are always very real, inside the artists’ studios at work. «The photographic narratives that Ernst Scheidegger shoots in the studios of artists in the second half of the 20th century are the work of a man who basically shared the adventure of his protagonists and felt those images as part of a common enterprise,» Bezzola explains. The exhibition offers the viewer an up-close and intimate look inside the studios of artists who made the history of the 20th century, revealing faces to the many unknowns that dialogue with their works of the same, on loan from the Kunsthaus Zürich museum.

Ernst Scheidegger, Hans Arp nel suo atelier di Meudon, Parigi, ca. 1956 © Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zürich; 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich
Ernst Scheidegger Max Bill insegna teoria delle forme alla Scuola di arti applicate di Zurigo ca. 1946 © Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zürich; 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich
Ernst Scheidegger, Installazione della scultura Kontinuität di Max Bill nella sua prima versione in gesso, Zurigo, 1947 © Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zürich
Ernst Scheidegger, Fritz Glarner nel suo atelier di Parigi ca. 1955 © Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zürich; 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich

Some exhibited works

Marc Chagall, Au-dessus de Paris 1968, Olio su tela, Kunsthaus Zürich, 2017 © 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich
Salvador Dalì, La tour, 1936, Olio su tela, Kunsthaus Zürich, 2017 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / 2024, ProLitteris, Zurich

In cover: Ernst Scheidegger, Salvador Dalí nel suo atelier a Portlligat, ca. 1955 © Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zürich

La mostra è aperta fino al 21 luglio 2024, qui più info.

Artist portraits: Scheidegger face-to-face with Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti and others
Photography
Artist portraits: Scheidegger face-to-face with Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti and others
Artist portraits: Scheidegger face-to-face with Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti and others
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Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)

Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)

Giorgia Massari · 3 days ago · Photography

I’m not sure if it’s the sexual component that catches my attention. Perhaps it’s some elements, especially snails, that evoke a sense of familiarity in me, but also nostalgia for something I can’t quite identify. There’s a call back to my childhood, and it’s precisely the snails that evoke it. They were my only playmates when I spent the summer in a remote mountain location, in my grandparents’ garden which after a storm became the perfect habitat for these small creatures, as slimy as they were curious. Back then, I would pick them up from their shells, place them on my arms, and let them slide over me, amused by the trail of slime they left on my skin. I didn’t know it then, but I was assimilating them. In fact, that’s exactly what Ivana Sfredda talks about in the photos she showed me a few weeks ago in her studio in Milan. Soak up is the title of the series still in work in progress that the Molisan photographer has been working on since 2022, or perhaps even earlier. Interpreting the Anglo-Saxon term “soak up” literally, it refers to the sensation of enjoyment perceived in the act of assimilation. A unique human and animal need, that of joining someone or something, of being connected, and of “annihilating the boundaries that delimit a body.”

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

Ivana Sfredda’s macro shots do not contemplate any subject hierarchy. A strawberry in a man’s mouth, a group of worms intertwined, a droplet about to fall from an old faucet, all appear one after the other in a carousel of images that dance hand in hand in a perpetual circle, without jerks or arrogance. Hand in hand, united, assimilated into each other, in the other. So that in the act of encounter between two bodies, there is no longer a “my body” and “your body.” The power dynamics that humans have built in the relationship between artifact and nature are nullified. Perhaps this is where my childhood memory fits in, where it is clear that in that space-time arc, I did not know of this imposition, and no construct had yet had time to settle in the logic that today exists in me, the inequality of man > animal or even more so, artificial > nature.

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

But there is something beyond this unconsciousness or yet uncorrupted consciousness. Ivana explains it to me by citing Mario Perniola, a philosopher, writer, and theorist of contemporary art, delving into the sexuality mentioned earlier. Because it is clear that in the union of two bodies there is a tension that moves them towards each other, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be laden with a pleasurable end. Perhaps it’s just an unconscious need to lose one’s original form?

«Perniola identifies in sexuality a point of suspension that he defines as neutral sexuality: the detachment from one’s own body that implies a sense of estrangement, cybernetic and indeed neutral. This erotic impulse detaches itself from the pursuit of carnal pleasure in function of an intense contact where the organic and inorganic body becomes a meaningful surface. A very powerful communication system that leaps beyond the categories of human/artificial, human/animal, animal/artificial – relative to being as such – which traces the fluid architectures of an alternative body.»

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

As explained by Ivana Sfredda, in the encounter with the other, the self feels fulfilled. This reminds me of a book I read some time ago when I was searching for a more conscious self. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – found in the “esotericism” section of a bookstore – actually talked about this. It discussed how the self exists only in the reflection in the other, when the annulment of the ego occurs, which only defines the boundaries of a prison where a false narrative of ourselves lives. So, in Ivana Sfredda’s shots, which she explains to me are a sort of exercise and play, all this is visually translated, as if to illustrate the daily and widespread existence of continuous equal and harmonious connections between elements that seem distant both in a hierarchical and semantic sense.

«The series focuses on the meaning of contact and relational energy, an exercise in imagining how these incomplete relationships can represent profound portals of learning.»

ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda
ivana sfredda

Courtesy & Copyright Ivana Sfredda

Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)
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Ivana Sfredda, If We Assimilate To Enjoy (And To Lose Ourselves)
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Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive

Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive

Anna Frattini · 3 days ago · Photography

Alec Gill is an English photographer, historian, and psychologist born in Hull, a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire county, famously known for its port. A few years ago, a crowdfunding campaign was launched on Kickstarter to celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the first photo taken for the project dedicated to Hessle Road with a book, and we’re discussing it here today. The archive of 7,000 photographs – taken with his Rolleicord twin-lens reflex camera – dates back to the decade between 1970 and 1980. There are 240 images included in The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive, and in each of them, one can feel the atmosphere of a very difficult historical moment for the residents. It marks the decline of the fishing industry and the demolitions of mass housing in the area.

alec gill photo archive

The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive

The book, launched on May 18th last year, was written and conceived by Iranzu Baker and Fran Méndez. In this interview with Port, Baker discusses some aspects of working with Alec Gill. The photographer – during the writing of the book – proved to be «endlessly curious, extremely determined and dedicated». During those years, Gill also focused on the lack of play areas for children and how younger generations adapted to the changes in the area. Another goal was certainly to freeze time before the end of an era. That of fishing in the area, ended with the Cod Wars starting from 1958 until 1972 and 1975. A piece of history that thanks to Gill has not been forgotten.

Gill’s is a genuine inclination towards the stories of the underdogs. The aim was to ensure that these stories were told, both now and at the time of the shots. The Alec Gill Hassle Road photo archive is not just a social study, therefore. It is a testament to the relationship Gill has established on a human level with his fellow citizens. Their stories seem to tell themselves in front of the photographer’s lens. Furthermore, the naturalness of the shots not only captures the theme of childhood but also communicates extremely functionally moments of the daily life of the inhabitants of Hassle Road.

Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
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Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
Alec Gill and Hessle Road photo archive
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Nanni Licitra’s non-places

Nanni Licitra’s non-places

Giorgia Massari · 2 days ago · Photography

Nanni Licitra ‘s (1988) photographs focus primarily on non-places, anonymous and impersonal spaces that dot urban peripheries. Licitra transforms these marginal areas into other scenarios that acquire new meaning. We are talking about the series Hell end in Hell, whose images are emblematic reflections of a society in transformation, where the individual struggles to find a sense of belonging and identity in an increasingly chaotic and alienating context. The series, winner of the Liquida Photofestival Grant, on view in Turin from May 2 to 5, is a true socio-cultural analysis that reflects in toto the contradictions of contemporary society.

nanni licitra

Nanni Licitra ha iniziato la sua ricerca fotografica nel 2008 concentrandosi esclusivamente sulla fotografia analogica. Questa scelta non è casuale; infatti, la fotografia analogica richiede una pazienza e una precisione che si riflettono nel suo approccio distaccato e contemplativo. Licitra si pone come uno spettatore attento delle realtà che lo circondano, privilegiando uno sguardo che va oltre le apparenze per cogliere l’essenza delle cose. L’utilizzo dell’analogico da parte di Licitra non è solo una scelta tecnica, ma rappresenta anche una dichiarazione di intenti. In un’epoca dominata dalla velocità e dall’effimero delle immagini digitali, il fotografo siciliano opta per un ritmo più lento e contemplativo, che permette di approfondire le tematiche trattate e di trasmettere un senso di nostalgia e malinconia tipico dei non luoghi.

nanni licitra
nanni licitra

Courtesy Nanni Licitra

Nanni Licitra’s non-places
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MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most

MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most

Giorgia Massari · 2 days ago · Photography

The preview of the eighth edition of MIA Photo Fair, the photography fair that returns to Milan every year with a selection of international artists, was held yesterday, April 10. This year it is no longer in the usual Superstudio Maxi, but moves next to the star of the week, Miart. So that, potentially, in one day the bravest can see two fairs by getting off at the Portello metro stop. Miart at gate 5 of Allianz MiCo while MIA Photo at gate 16. Getting to the point, let’s talk about what we liked. As is always the case, following the trade fair system, many of the exhibits are seen and seen again, but still enjoyable to review such as shots by established photographers of the caliber of Giovanni Gastel and Ugo Mulas, or even photojournalists Fausto Giaccone and Carlo Orsi. But, among the many evergreens we have unearthed a few new ones, perhaps a few names we have already heard, but not so much in our opinion. Therefore, we made a selection of our favorite booths.

#1 Maria Svarbova – ARTITLEDcontemporary (B022)

mia photo fair

#2 Irina Werning – OTM Gallery (B023)

mia photo fair

#3 Karla Hiraldo Voleau – Christophe Guye Galerie (B019)

mia photo fair

#4 Laetitia Ky – LIS10 Gallery (E014)

mia photo fair

#5 Giulia Frump – Young Art Hunters (F018)

#6 Paolo Ventura – MarcoRossi ArteContemporanea (A022)

mia photo fair

#7 Daniele Ratti – VisionQuest 4Rosso (C018)

mia photo fair

#8 Najla Said – Mashrabia Gallery (F005)

mia photo fair

#9 Angelo Formato – Welcome to my known collective exhibition

mia photo fair

#10 Thorsten Brinkmann – Galleria Fumagalli (A019)

mia photo fair

MIA Photo Fair will remain open until Sunday, April 14.

MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most
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MIA Photo Fair, What We Liked Most
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