The exhibition, consisting entirely of vintage works from the Philip and Rosella Rolla collection, compares photographs by Edward Weston with drawings by some of the greatest exponents of American Minimalism.
At first glance very different, in fact these two groups of works share many characteristics. They both reflect similar interests and sensitivities, as can be seen through this exhibition project designed to throw new light on both, by means of an unusual but very close comparison.
One of the most important figures in the history of worldwide photography, Weston began his career in California in the early 20th century. In Tropico, a small town not far from Los Angeles, he opened a studio where he took his earliest portrait photographs. His style at that time was very different from that for which he would become famous. He followed the dogma of classical pictorialism: dreamy atmospheres, blurred edges, flou filters, thick, amber-coloured paper.
The exhibition begins with these rare images that look familiar: Weston’s activity as a portraitist is illustrated by means of a series of samples. Of course there are the photographs from the period of the ‘f/64 Group’ that he founded with Ansel Adams in 1932, works of absolute compositional rigour, right through to nudes, and famous personalities such as writer Leon Wilson, artist Dorothy Brett and composer Igor Stravinsky. Together, they demonstrate Weston’s constant interest in the human figure, and they reveal some notable features, for example his meticulous attention to detail, worthy of a miniature painter, studying a surface centimetre by centimetre.
Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, Fred Sandback and Richard Serra are the authors of the works placed in comparison with Weston’s photographs. These works are also of a particular type: they are all drawings, with a discreet character that bears comparison with the fragile period portraits, triggering new interpretations and revealing some shared characteristics.
Just as for Minimal Art practitioners, for Weston, repetition was one of the central tenets of his approach. In addition to the famous series of peppers (in 1930 he created at least thirty images on this subject), even when he was working on portraits he followed some invariable rules (neutral expression, absence of frontality, close-up composition…). And above all, he created repeated images for each subject. Hence, the concept of repetition. Lastly, he printed a number of different images (which are exceptionally presented together in this exhibition), without considering it necessary to choose just one. Weston was stringent, like the Minimalists. And like them, his iconography is based on the concepts of discipline, geometry, precision, and scientific harmony. His modulus is the neutral space of the frame. Which in this case often blends with the space of the portraitist’s studio.