Olivo Barbieri, ‘site specific_ MONTREAL 04 [Buckminster Fuller Dome]’, 2004, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase through a gift of Barry R. Campbell, Toronto, Canada, and the Accessions Committee Fund

About Olivo Barbieri

With his lush, large-format photographs that walk the line between the real and the surreal, Olivo Barbieri challenges perception and confounds expectations. In his teasing, humorous work, the real becomes fake and the fake becomes real. As he describes: “All my work is about perception. It’s a deconstruction of the normal way of seeing.” His “Site Specific” series (2003-) exemplifies the way in which he uses his camera to make the familiar seem strange. Hovering in a helicopter above major world cities, Barbieri takes photographs from a bird’s-eye view, selectively focusing on only one element in the frame, often an iconic architectural monument, while leaving its surroundings blurred. The effect is both stunningly beautiful and bizarre: paradoxically grand and miniaturized, familiar cityscapes become shrunken toy landscapes with dollhouse buildings and miniscule inhabitants.

Italian, b. 1954, Modena, Italy, based in Rome, Italy