Yancey Richardson is pleased to present Alps – Geographies and People, the fifth solo exhibition at the gallery by Italian artist Olivo Barbieri, and the inaugural exhibition in the gallery’s new street-level space at 525 W. 22nd street. Having previously completed a series of aerial photographs in the Dolomites range in northern Italy, Barbieri has embarked on a project documenting the largest range in Europe, and the relationship that extreme climbers have to the terrain. As the artist describes:
“The subject of ‘Alps – Geographies and People’ is how the mountain is perceived from the climbers’ point of view – its peaks and precipices, the mirages and hallucinations in its geography. In these images, everything is true. The proportions and the forms are real. Even the people and the position they’re in…those, too, are real.”
The word Alps derives from the French and Latin “alpes”, which at one time was thought to derive from the Latin “albus” (white), in reference to the permanent snow on the peaks of the range. Employing a technique he calls “solid color”, Barbieri makes erasures and selectively whites out portions of the mountains, opening the possibility to define their fundamental forms in a concise way. Conceptually similar to the selected focus of his site specific_ series, which transformed the world into a model of itself, Barbieri here uses “solid color” to draw out the mountain’s basic, original form. Shot from a helicopter, the sublime and dizzying vantage is further enhanced by the inclusion of climbers traversing rocks and chasms, seeking to discover a hidden truth in what Barbieri describes as “blank maps”, a kind of spiritual space outside the realm of traceable geography. Whereas his previous Dolomites series revealed the terrain and included people as a near supplemental element denoting scale, Alps – Geographies and People moves the climbers to the fore, presenting their extreme and dangerous traverse as a near hallucinogenic journey of discovery among the most famous heights of Europe’s largest peaks.
The exhibition will coincide with the release, this fall, by Aperture Press, of site specific_, a survey of Barbieri’s ten-year, ongoing project reimagining urban spaces across the globe. In addition to his photographic work, Barbieri has also directed critically acclaimed films, such as site specific_ROMA 04, site specific_SHANGHAI 04, and site specific_LAS VEGAS 05, which he has exhibited at the MOMA, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among other venues. His films have been featured in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. He has also exhibited his photographs internationally at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, and the International Center of Photography, New York. He has participated in the Venice Biennial (1993, 1995, 1997, 2011, 2013), the Prague Biennial (2009) and the Seville Biennial (2006). Born in 1954, Olivo Barbieri lives and works in Modena, Italy.