Magazine article Artforum International

Massimo Vitali; Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Massimo Vitali; Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Article excerpt

In an 1867 letter to a friend, Eugene Boudin bemoaned an influx of vacationers to his native Normandy coast, writing, "This beach at Trouville which used to be my delight, now ... seems like a frightful masquerade. One would have to be a genius to make something of this bunch of do-nothing poseurs." A solution was found in selective attention: "Fortunately, dear friend, the Creator has spread out everywhere his splendid and warming light, and it is less this society that we reproduce than the element which envelops it." Figures turn up, yet as in many Impressionist representations of recreation, people at leisure seem to inhabit the sites of that leisure provisionally, even uncomfortably.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A brilliant Mediterranean light saturates Massimo Vitali's images of beaches and other holiday destinations, but--lacking the painter's editing pretogatives and, since he works in analog, those of the digital artist--the Italian photographer realizes an inversion of Boudin's remedy. While the six giant prints comprising this exhibition were shot at some prepossessing places (the coastlines of Sicily and Spain, Rome's Piazza di Spagna), their frames filled by panoramic stretches of surf and shore, Vitali's concern is less with the vacation spot than with the vacationer. His light is so fulgent, and so even, that sand appears bleached, water limpid and featureless. One is meant to look at the people.

And they are there in droves--tip to toe on the beach, in scattered knots on the Spanish Steps, and filed hundreds-deep in a Tuscan plaza, necks craned to view a performance by the acrobatic squad of the Italian air force. A large-format view camera registers faces and bodies in crystalline detail with little loss of legibility over distance, nullifying the perspectives that would otherwise be afforded by natural recessives such as a staircase or an arcing coastline, and by the vantage of the twenty-odd-foot platform on which it is mounted. …

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