It is like narrating a city. A tale with different nuances, which can be declined according to the sensibilities of the individual.
The photographer’s eye can rest on its architecture; on its urban spaces, on its relational or working spaces; on its inhabitants and their moods; on its details; on its materials; on its furnishings; on the lights that illuminate it and the shadows that come from it.
Thus appears the story of La Sapienza fotografata, an exhibition curated by Ilaria Schiaffini and Tiziana Faraoni, until 24 September at the Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea of the University of the same name. An exhibition that brings together two photographic commissions promoted by “Sapienza”: one from 1985, curated by Gianni Berengo Gardin, and a contemporary one curated by Ilaria Schiaffini and Alessia Venditti.
In 1935, when the Piacentiniano complex was inaugurated by King Victor Emmanuel III, the university city was composed of the architecture of, among others, Ponti, Pagano, Foschini, Michelucci and Montuori, the pictorial interventions of Sironi and the sculptural ones of Arturo Martini: essential volumes, decisive forms, travertine, face brick, the recovery of the Italian muralist tradition.
Thus, 50 years after its inauguration, Gianni Berengo Gardin curated the exhibition Sette fotografi per la Sapienza (Seven Photographers for La Sapienza): established photographers on the then contemporary scene, they recounted “the environment and interrogated architecture and its phenomenology”, in the words of the curator.
In today’s exhibition, a selection of the photos from that time: if Mario Cresci recounts, in black and white, the details and monumental interiors, Luigi Ghirri, back from his Viaggio in Italia, recounts the banality of the spaces, empty, in colour, impersonal, marked by the passage of man, constantly absent.
The images, with Berengo Gardin, become populated again: students, life in relation to space and architecture according to geometrically constructed compositions.
Fontana’s selection is attentive to details: bright, contrasting colours, shadows and urban signs.
Gabriele Basilico, in black and white, shows the monumental entrances of Foschini, Piacentini and Michelucci: simple forms and majestic presences. Paola Agosti’s photos come alive with smiles, the life of students in classrooms, along corridors, in open-air spaces, contrasting with Mimmo Jodice’s empty spaces with essential lines.
Among the contemporary readings, on the other hand, Alessandro Imbriaco’s work stands out: glass plates from the Physics Museum of the Sapienza University, decontextualised, recompose a visual and geometric pattern, next to Caimi&Piccini’s diptychs that free objects from museum cataloguing and their didactic function.
Jemolo’s photos are tinged with travertine and brick red to tell the story of rationalist architecture alongside Massimo Siracusa’s rainy autumnal atmospheres. Annette Schreye’s portraits are seven intimate conversations between the photographer and university workers. And finally, the students, those of yesterday and today, between past and present by Riccardo Venturi; suspended time, the absences of the pandemic and the space that returns to repopulate in Valentina Vannicola’s gaze.
In addition to photographs, archive material, postcards, books, images chosen by Camilla Ferrario and Arianna, which tell the story of the university city, from the fascist celebrations to the 1968 uprisings.
And you walk out of the exhibition, told of a place, a thousand experiences and a piece of Italian history.
LA SAPIENZA FOTOGRAFATA, curated by Ilaria Schiaffini, Tiziana Faraoni, MLAC – Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea, Città Universitaria, Sapienza Università di Roma, 14.05 – 24.09.2022
Artists: Paola Agosti, Gabriele Basilico, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Mario Cresci, Franco Fontana, Luigi Ghirri, Mimmo Jodice, Caimi&Piccinni, Alessandro Imbriaco, Andrea Jemolo, Annette Schreyer, Massimo Siragusa, Valentina Vannicola, Riccardo Venturi
images: (cover 1) Mimmo Jodice, «La Sapienza», Rome, 1985. Courtesy Mimmo Jodice (2) Annette Schereyer, «La Sapienza fotografata», 2022 (3) Mario Cresci, «La Sapienza», Rome, 1985. Courtesy Mario Cresci Archive (4) Luigi Ghirri, «La Sapienza», Rome, 1985. Courtesy Eredi di Luigi Ghirri (5) 2022, la sapienza fotografata -2-2 (6) Massimo Siragusa, «La Sapienza fotografata», 2022