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Polka Galerie : Mario Giacomelli & Franco Fontana : Conversazione


Conversazione is a meeting between two masters who everything seems to oppose. One flourished thanks to color when the process was still in its infancy. The other tirelessly explored the stigmata of the world around him using black and white. And yet. The works of these two pure products of Italian photography are found in the same reading of landscape, lines and abstraction. Giacomelli and Fontana remind us that Edward Weston was right: “It is stupid to say that color kills black and white. These are two different languages ​​that cannot compete with each other.” (Modern Photography, 1947)

Mario Giacomelli, born in 1925 in Senigallia, a small seaside town on the Adriatic coast, in the Marche region. He spent his entire life there, devoting the majority of his work to the landscapes and people of his immediate environment. No need to travel far to photograph. His appetite for inked materials and contrasts comes from his early training as a typographer and printer. Nourished by the painting he has practiced since adolescence, his photography is full of poetry and nostalgia. A prophet in his country, this student of the Misa group, founded by Giuseppe Cavalli, which brought together Italian photographers curious about landscape in the 1950s, was spotted very early on by the pioneering artisans of photography. In 1967, John Szarkowski, curator of MoMA in New York, opened the doors to the great American museum collections.

In 1975, on board a plane heading to Spain, Giacomelli immortalized the Earth through a window. It’s a revelation for him. In the years that followed, he would multiply these photos seen from above, generally on board a small beach advertising plane. Giacomelli takes us to meet fields as far as the eye can see, plowed by the violence that man inflicts on nature. And these machines which reveal, around a few collapsed houses, the scars of work to the rhythm of the seasons. A squeaky and graphic abstraction where black and white is pushed to its limits. The height of the shot allows the author to remove the sky that the poorest, those who keep their eyes down and whose wounds he always wanted to think about, do not see. In the stigmata of the landscape, they are the ones who smile at us and wave at us.

“I would not like to repeat visible things, but to make them really visible.” Mario Giacomelli

Born in 1933 in Modena, Italy, Franco Fontana broke the codes of his generation very early on, notably by imposing color in photography, in the sacred era of black and white. The phosphorescent yellow of a golden sky responds to the black of a leaden sea. Fontana is playful. His luminous palettes and his appetite for geometric lines are the alphabet of a language which he uses to eliminate or sublimate what must be. Inspired by the painters Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt, but also Paul Klee and the Art Informel of Alberto Burri, Franco Fontana plays – from the end of the 1960s and with disconcerting ease – with the codes of advertising under the influence of abstract expressionism and minimalism. Between sky and earth, with the sea as a horizon, in the heart of a colorful and decaying city, everyday landscapes suddenly come back to life like self-portraits.

“We do not photograph what we see, but what we are, because we only reveal to the world what we carry within us, and we need the world to discover it and restore it as we would like it to be.”

In this exhibition in the form of a dialogue, the Polka gallery places side by side two perspectives driven by the same artistic ambition: that of promoting a form of “pure photography”, the key to an inner journey. Contrary to the vulgate which only wants to retain abstraction in their respective works, we must remember that reality matters for these concrete men. It is present, with its trees, its houses, its plowing, its shores, its reflections. Whether the shot is spontaneous or calculated, Fontana and Giacomelli decontextualize the areas before their eyes. Without identifiable location, without orientation. The minimalist and refined lines that they trace with the light create a singular geometry which becomes, through the exhibition, the common thread of a conversation between two masters who speak to each other like friends.


Mario Giacomelli & Franco Fontana : Conversazione
from September 8 to October 28, 2023
Galerie Polka
12, rue Saint-Gilles, 75003 Paris


2 books by Franco Fontana were recently published by Éditions Contrejour.

Franco Fontana : Paris
Éditions Contrejour
Text by Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Size: 20 x 26 cm
72 pages
Price : 35 euros

Franco Fontana : Skyline
Éditions Contrejour
Size : 21 x 27 cm
80 pages
Price : 30 euros

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