Massimo Vitali: Arcadian Remains @Bonni Benrubi

JTF (just the facts): A total of 5 large scale color works, mounted to Diasec and not framed, and hung in the main gallery space. The chromogenic prints range in size from 71×89 to 76×100; 4 are single images and 1 is a diptych. The images were taken in Greece, Italy, and Spain in 2011, and are available in editions of 6. A companion exhibit of Vitali’s works is on display at agnès b. Galerie Boutique (here). (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Massimo Vitali’s newest pictures find him parked in a familiar location: looking down from above on the vast seashore, where sparkling blue water meets sand and eroded rock, and where tiny people in colorful swimsuits cover the available land mass like packs of insignificant ants. As usual, the light is squint inducing, so bright and white that it is almost a physical presence, draping the scenes with washes of blinding glare.

The gallery press release calls Vitali’s works “socio-landscapes”, and my experience of these new pictures is that they have a bit more landscape in them than his previous photographs. The scale seems broader, the white cliffs and rock formations more like harsh moonscapes, the crashing waves more dramatic. The tiny figures seem almost like the minuscule people found in the foreground of a romantic landscape painting, only multiplied into crowds, with each individual sun bather or pair of lazy swimmers identifiable and unique. The caustic irony I have felt in his earlier photographs seems more muted here, the folly of humanity (when compared to the grandeur of nature) made even smaller and more unimportant.

All in all, Vitali hasn’t strayed too far from the formula that brought him success in these new images, but he does seem to be bridging closer to traditional landscape forms than ever before. There are less miles of matching umbrellas and acres of human flesh in these pictures, and instead a more subtle tilt toward the timelessness of the land and sea.

Collector’s POV: The single images in this show are priced at 30000€  or 40000€ based on the place in the edition; the diptych is 50000€. These prices are a decent step up from his last show at Benrubi. Vitali’s work has become more routinely available at auction in recent years, with prices ranging from roughly $5000 to $80000.

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