JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 black and white photographic works (23 single prints and 1 set of 4 prints), framed in black and matted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the entry area. All of the works are gelatin silver prints, made between 1950 and 1958 and printed recently. Physical sizes range from roughly 12×16 to 18×20 inches (or reverse), and all of the works are available in open editions. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: Nino Migliori’s photographs from the 1950s infuse the gritty reality of Italian Neorealism with splashes of attentive warmth. Chronologically located near the end of the famed artistic period, Migliori’s pictures are less overtly political or pointedly critical than some of the post World War II work in photography and film that came earlier, finding moments of tentative optimism in the rhythms of everyday life.
The movement and action in the streets fills many of Migliori’s images, with people on bicycles going places in the shadowy afternoon sun and the traffic of silhouetted cars seen steeply from above. Migliori seems to have been particularly attuned to the return of simple pleasures after the difficult aftermath of the war, turning his camera toward a family meal seen through a lit window, a man reading the day’s news with a magnifying glass, and a dog holding the tip hat for a man asking for help in the streets. Even the gondolas of Venice have returned to passing by jaunty ads for detergent pasted on nearby walls.
Children provide the contagious energy in many of Migliori’s pictures. While some do the real work of carry bread from house to house, most find moments of joy in peeking into fair attractions or honking horns in each other’s ears. Groups of kids provide even more liveliness, from tough swaggering street kids in berets looking for trouble to uniformed schoolboys joyfully jumping down from a wall.
Sun drenched beach scenes drift even further away from the earlier darkness of poverty and destruction. Migliori’s iconic diver (Il Tuffatore) soars through the air above his companion, his body perfectly straight as it heads for the water below. Other images capture swimsuited ladies with matching sunhats, kids playing on a beach swing, and young men sitting on the seawall flanked by a triangle of sail, the sunny skies dotted with lazy clouds. An image of footprints in the sand near a wooden boardwalk finds Migliori playing with form and texture more overtly.
Some of the most engaging works in the show observe people and their gestures. A set of four portraits of a trio of older women having an animated conversation sitting on the steps captures the essence of Italian expressiveness and language punctuated by hand movements. In other works a woman hides her face with a fan, a black-clothed widow looms like a spectral presence, and a fruit seller holds her hand in such a way that it mirrors the glamorous jewelry ad pasted behind her.
As seen in the images in this show, Migliori had a consistent eye for the small moments of life in the 1950s, especially those that had been largely absent during the war years. A staged wedding photo interrupted by a vendor of balloons and beach balls offers more than a glimmer of hope for the future. Not only are the strong bonds of family being renewed, laughter is once again allowed to playfully intervene.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The single prints range from $4500 to $7500, while the set of 4 prints is $12000. Migliori’s prints have only been intermittently available in the secondary markets in the past decade. Recent prices have ranged from roughly $5000 to $15000.