Olivo Barbieri Envisions the Adriatic Coast as a Stunning Blue Stage

Olivio Barbieri’s work hangs restlessly in the intersection of photography, film, fine art, and geography. His ground-breaking catalog of works focused on urban geography developed during a crucial time in which technologies such as Google Earth altered forever the way physical sites are represented and imagined. 

Barbieri’s most seminal work to date is his decade-long investigation of cities from an aerial view. To create the series, titled “Site_specific,” he worked to perfect the at-the-time emergent technique of tilt-view photography, photographing cities such as Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro from a helicopter and creating colorful, fantastic large-format images of their various landscapes. Citing such influences as Man Ray and Andy Warhol, Barberi has been one of the foundational artists working with color photography in the tradition of fine art; when he began shooting, film and photography were largely focused on reportage and documentary. Color photography, in particular, was considered the purview of ad men and graphic designers. 

For Barbieri’s most recent project, which is currently on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York, he has again taken to aerial color photography, focusing on Italy’s Adriatic coastline—a site of affluent urban leisure, environmental degradation, and extensive tourism. Originally shooting over 400 kilometers of these beaches for his film, titled La Citta Perfecta (The Perfect City), Barbieri has collected stills and color-corrected them with vivid blues, highlighting arrangements of human actors from high above.

The artist has conceptualized the meetings of land and sea he’s captured as something akin to a stage with dancers—this particular coastline, he’s said, is “a manifestation of the genius loci of those places where folk dance is extremely popular and historically regarded by the old and new generations and where still the big disco clubs stand like cathedrals in the desert.” Barbieri’s clots of vacationers and locals are organized organically and in formations recalling line dances or synchronized swimming. In select images, individuals are white silhouettes, their impact reduced to a ghostly after-image. Here, as in Barbieri’s other work, an analysis of human architecture—both bodily and in the systems we create—is combined with a deeply sensitive visual field.


—M. Osberg


Olivo Barbieri: Adriatic Sea (staged) Dancing People” is on view at Yancey Richardson Gallery, Feb. 4th – Mar. 19th, 2016.

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