Titled "Materia Impure," the Lorenzo Vitturi exhibition on view at the FOAM through January 19, 2020 features a selection of works from several of the artist's emblematic series. It's an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of Vitturi's approach, which encompasses sculpture, photography and a sociological reflection on the westernization and gentrification of big cities.
Large assemblies of materials and color schemes: all it takes is a single glance to recognize Vitturi photographs. However, in order to fully grasp their complexity, one must take the time to dissect each layer of these photographs. Materials, landscapes, composition, colors: his work is based above all on an equilibrium—tension, even—between modernity and authenticity; stylistic effects used intelligently in the service of a sociological statement on globalization and cultural cross-pollination.
Wood, bark, plastic
Before each photograph, there is a whole series of steps he takes that guide his work. Whether it's for a market in Lagos, Marseille or London, Vitturi's first step is to live in an area until it becomes his own. This process of soaking in his surroundings involves interviews with locals, taking photos and notes, and, most important, gleaning.
For each of his compositions Vitturi uses elements that he has salvaged from the places he studies, whether they are items of everyday use (brooms, boxes, plastic bags, etc.) or natural materials such as rocks, bark, wood, peelings, fruits, and so on. He then assembles these objects and makes them hold together using different plastic approaches—collage, painting, assembly—and techniques specific to photography: overprints, diptychs, landscapes, still lifes and portraits. For instance, in his series "Money Must Be Made," which depicts the financial district of Lagos, which has been disrupted by the expansion of the Balogun market, Vitturi altered his photographs several times to print them again. This was a way for him to report on the local and economic realities of Lagos and on the different strata of society.
For Vitturi, it's not about photographing an atmosphere, but about reviving it (or helping it live on) by reproducing it, especially through sculpture; by assembling all these observations and all these materials, using various photographic approaches, he becomes an alchemist. He manages to transcribe what is difficult to transcribe: changing and vibrant moods and atmospheres. In fact, reflecting on his work for "Dalston Anatomy" (an ode to London's Ridley Road market, a multicultural place that has become gentrified over the years), Vitturi said he felt as if he were bringing the market into his studio and giving it new life.
His assembly techniques enable him to express the melting-pot sensation that emanates from big cities, and the ephemeral nature of his sculptures serves a reflection on society's shifting identities. Sculpture is also a way to create a mise en abyme with the ephemeral structures of the markets, as well as with the big neon signs of modernity, so good at capturing one's attention.
The FOAM exhibit also includes Vitturi's latest series, "Caminante," which is inspired by his own life history—and which helps viewers grasp what a big influence it has on his work. His Italian father, who worked in the glass business in Murano, moved to Peru, where he met the artist's mother. One can imagine that it is from this cross-cultural life and the going back and forth between the two continents that Vitturi gets his artistic gaze and his relationship to materials, forms, and lights; and that it is also what inspires his singular way of understanding spaces, his ability to feel at home in new places and with new people and to offer up a documentary approach that is not ethnocentric.
And therein lies his strength.
By Sophie Puig
Lorenzo Vitturi, Materia Impura
Fom October 18, 2019 to January 20, 2020
Foam, Fotografiemuseum, Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Amsterdam