Bruce Silverstein Gallery is pleased to announce Mario Giacomelli Earthly Inferno, a survey of photographs by Italy’s most prolific and highly regarded photographer. Already well known for his Young Priests (Pretini) series, and his manicured aerial landscapes that preceded the land art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Earthly Inferno takes the viewer deeper into the artist’s mind, revealing a vision fraught with the passage of time, closing in on death. “My photos are the mark of my intervention in a given space, my creation; they are a record of what I was thinking while a little of me died, because we’re dying every day.”
Mario Giacomelli (1925 – 2000) was born in Senigallia, Italy. According to Giacomelli, he had the “good fortune to be born poor,” and left school at an early age to apprentice in a local typesetting shop. Having lost his father at age nine, the young artist often accompanied his mother to the nursing home where she worked. It was this early exposure to the aged, vulnerable, and poverty-stricken that influenced and haunted Giacomelli his entire life.
Giacomelli eased into photography, not fully embracing it until he was 30 years old. His typesetting background influenced the graphic quality of his compositions, as well as the stark contrast in his prints that has become the signature of the artist. Following World War II, Giacomelli was introduced to Neorealist films that captured gritty, grainy images of a war-torn Italy. In 1953, he befriended Giuseppe Cavalli, an important photographer of the period and founder of Misa, a local photography club. Highly influential on Giacomelli, Cavalli believed in the power of photography to transform reality into fantasy.
Giacomelli began receiving international recognition when the image of the boy from Scanno was first published in the British Journal of Photography Annual in 1963. The same year it was bought for Museum of Modern Art in New York by John Szarkowski. In 1973, Szarkowski published the image in his book Looking at Photographs, as one of the hundred best photographs of MoMA’s collection. Bill Brandt chose Giacomelli for The Land exhibit at Victoria & Albert Museum in 1975, further launching Giacomelli onto the scene. In 2001, Giacomelli received his first massive retrospective including 250 works at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.