Franco Vimercati – Un minuto – Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan – september 30 – december 5, 2020.

[…] to wake up in the morning and play something by Bach. That’s my dream.

Galleria Raffaella Cortese dedicates, in the year of the 25th anniversary of its opening, an extensive retrospective — as a tribute — to Franco Vimercati, the artist with whom the gallery first opened in 1995. Un minuto [One minute], Vimercati’s third solo exhibition in Raffaella Cortese’s spaces, is curated by Marco Scotini and extends across all three exhibition venues in via Stradella, each dedicated to a decade of the artist’s activity, from the 1970s to the year 2000.

Isolated (by vocation and destiny), shy and uncompromising, Franco Vimercati transforms the photographic act into a radical gesture of measuring time; this places him among the most rigorous and original conceptual artists in Italy and beyond. Remaining devoted, without ever straying from it, to the austerity and the intractable asceticism of the Seventies, Vimercati continues to develop — throughout the course of his practice — a unique approach to seriality and photographic sequence, refraining from the canon of the single and absolute image. But in doing so, his activity is as distant from the Bechers’ systematic deduction as it is from Dibbets’ temporal and one-way sequences. Vimercati’s point of departure is to operate in time and against time (its passing, its consumption), in favor of another time, open to potential, to possibility.

The “minute” which the title refers to therefore alludes to the minimal character of Vimercati’s production (black/white, reduced selection of objects, concentration on a few shots) as well as the opposition between the particular chronological limit and the immeasurable dilation of time, which is sensible in Vimercati’s work.

The starting point of the exhibition is the seminal 1974 work Un minuto di fotografia, a sequence of 13 photographs in which Vimercati deconstructs the passage of the canonical unit of time measurement through the repetition of the unchanged dial of a large alarm clock, fixed at 2:46. A fundamental work not only because it is at the origin of Vimercati’s own conceptual production but also because it inaugurates his conception of time that “dynamizes the inanimate” — to quote the fortunate expression that Luigi Ghirri had attributed to him. And that doubles Vimercati’s temporality into a current image and a co-existing virtual one, which removes his work from the linearity of time in past, present, and future, as well as the idea of the image as a definitive representation, without alternatives, and given once and for all.

In this sense, the three exhibition spaces in via Stradella all open with images of an alarm clock (normal or upside down) taken by Vimercati in successive decades but all portraying the same object, with its hands accurately pointing to one hour or another, but which could remain fixed at the same time – no matter what moment it is. The image of this mute object, assumed as the guiding compass for the exhibition, aims to mark an idea of return as well as that of the duration and continuity of Vimercati’s entire practice, in the name of a conception of time in which the past becomes indistinguishable from the present. And within this history, it is also the Milanese gallery that reconstructs its own path, in the lasting relationship with the artist and his work.

The gallery space in via Stradella 7 presents masterpieces of the Seventies such as the famous 36 shots of Untitled (Bottiglie d’acqua minerale), 1975, the minimal patterns of Untitled (Piastrelle), 1975 and Untitled (Parquet), 1977, the waiting spaces of Untitled (Tele), 1976: all works in which the cumbersome presence of the ego is more radically set aside. But the gallery also includes lesser-known works such as Untitled (Latte), the series of eight photographs from 1978 in which the same carton of milk, through imperceptible movements of the plane, stands out against a marbled, immovable, statuesque background. While the exhibition space in via Stradella 4 is devoted to the artist’s production from the Eighties with its more marked attention to the photographic format — the tondi of Untitled (Brocca) of 1980–81 — to variations of light and framing (although the entire and legendary of the Zuppiera (Soup Tureen) cycle has been excluded from the exhibition), the final exhibition venue in via Stradella 1 gathers the works of the Nineties in an attempt to return a pulsating galaxy of images that, starting from graphic layouts by Vimercati, appear sharp and out of focus, widen and shrink, become brighter or disappear in the dark.

Franco Vimercati was born in Milan in 1940 and died there in 2001. Franco Vimercati was a meticulous and essential photographer, interpreter of the silent and repetitive nature of the real. His interest has always been directed to the analysis of everyday objects, like a bottle of mineral water, an electric iron, a tureen, and to the composition and decomposition of the scene, repeatedly assembled according to the need of the photographic eye. Marked by the experience of photographers such as Luigi Ghirri and Ugo Mulas, Franco Vimercati made his first photographic series Sulle Langhe, in 1973. After this experience, the artist isolated the camera within his four walls and in 1975 produced a series comprising thirty-six photographs of bottles of mineral water. Influenced by the new artistic discoveries of minimalism and figures such as Ad Reinhardt, Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin and Giulio Paolini, Franco Vimercati soon began to complicate the photographed object in form and composition, by focusing on a more limited selection of items. It is no longer the series to be potentially infinite but the possibilities of the representation that are always different.

On the occasion of the exhibition a book entitled Franco Vimercati. Un minuto di fotografia [Franco Vimercati. One minute of photography] will be published by Quodlibet. The volume, edited by Marco Scotini, includes texts by Paolo Fossati, Luigi Ghirri, Elio Grazioli, Javier Hontoria, Angela Madesani, and Simone Menegoi; it will be published during the exhibition period.

Galleria Raffaella Cortese – via a. stradella 7-1-4, Milan.

Image (above): Franco Vimercati, Senza titolo (Sveglia), 1997. Gelatin silver print, 31 x 25 cm. Courtesy Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan and Archivio Franco Vimercati, Milan © Eredi Franco Vimercati

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