the photographic archive of Carlo Levi

the photographic archive of Carlo Levi
the photographic archive of Carlo Levi

art and exhibitions: smell

From July 2021 the Carlo Levi Foundation presents “The photographic archive of a protagonist of the twentieth century: Carlo Levi”, curated by Daniela Fonti and Antonella Lavorgna for the Carlo Levi Foundation, winning project of the public notice “Photography Strategy 2020” and promoted and supported by the General Direction for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture.

The project focuses on the enhancement and dissemination of the unpublished photographic collection collected in life by Carlo Levi, owned by the Foundation he created, currently preserved in the Central State Archives of Rome: the collection, which covers a time span of about one fifty years of activity – from the 1920s up to the period immediately following the artist’s death (1975) – reveals the central role played by photography in the career of Carlo Levi and the intense and stratified network of relationships he has woven with great master photographers, such as Mario Carbone, David Seymour, Henry Cartier-Bresson and with many figures of “minor” professionals active in the field of photo-reportage and photojournalism, such as Augusto Viggiano, the Scafidi photographic studio in Palermo, Elio Sorci, Agnese De Donato, animating the debate on photoamateurism. The project to enhance the fund is also part of the cultural programming of the Foundation, which began its reorganization and cataloging in 2018.

The project is divided into three sessions which aim to retrace the historical memory of our country through the eyes of one of the protagonists of the twentieth century, one of the most complete, complex and multifaceted politicians that Italy has expressed in the XX century; to promote the understanding of the integration of photographic language with the Levian pictorial and literary language, but also to bring out a fabric of minor local professionalism, both in Rome and in various southern centers such as Lucania, of considerable historical and artistic interest.

1. “Photographic archive” on the Carlo Levi Foundation website. The first initiative, which can be used totally online from July 2021, consists in the construction of a multimedia product conceived as a digital catalog, interactive, always available and constantly updated, in which the first 1200 photographs are presented, extracted from the vastest heritage that it consists of 8000 photographic prints, which will identify the significant thematic nuclei among the many included in the collection (historical-social, artistic and biographical nuclei). In fact, Carlo Levi rarely used the photographic medium himself: much more often he relied on professionals to set up the subjects to be portrayed and to note particular environmental situations that he would take up in his paintings (as in the great Telero di Lucania 61); he also commissioned or contacted, for specific services, great national and international masters, such as Mario Carbone, David Seymour, Henry Cartier-Bresson, or minor professionals operating in the field of journalistic photo-reportage, to get inspiration, especially during his frequent trips to the South Italy, for his writings of a narrative, militant political and journalistic nature. The photographic archive, consisting in the vast majority of photographs by other authors, is based on the filing of the photographic objects of the collection carried out on the xDams platform – an open source platform for XML document management entirely web-based that respects national and international cataloging standards – which allows you to create a search engine and a personalization and display of all the elements entered; the user, in this way, will have the possibility to make various paths between images, divided by subjects (portraits, landscapes, animals, etc.), reportage (Cartier-Bresson, Carbone, etc.) or keywords and also access other sites and related thematic channels.

2. Photographic exhibition “A shot that looks like us: Carlo Levi’s photographic collection”. The photographic exhibition, scheduled from September to December 2021 at the headquarters of the Carlo Levi Foundation in Rome, will present about 60 originals accompanied by video projections to complete the various conceptual in-depth paths that can be read in the photographs. The exhibition explores the centrality of photography in the restitution of events of Italian historical culture (the confinement in Lucania, the protests of the farmers, the characters involved in the fight against the mafia, major international political demonstrations); the importance for Carlo Levi of using photographic notes in many moments of his artistic creation: from the execution of large landscape paintings to the “shooting” of interiors with characters for his painting inspired by the South (reportage by international names such as Cartier-Bresson , Seymour, but also of Italian photographers such as Mario Carbone, Augusto Viggiano, exponents of ethnographic survey photography) to the creation of his most famous portraits (Silvana Mangano, Anna Magnani, Alberto Moravia, Italo Calvino, Umberto and Linuccia Saba, etc.) . In this way, the different languages ​​used by the many professionals, best known and least known, consulted by Levi to accompany his repeated trips to the south will be compared, giving adequate testimony, decade after decade, of the political-social transformations of those areas. of the country. The exhibition will be accompanied by guided tours for a large audience and educational workshops for lower and upper secondary schools.

3. Study day “In the foreground places and people of Italy”. During the period of the exhibition, in October, a day of in-depth study with national and international specialists in the sector will take place at the Carlo Levi Foundation on the themes present in the collection, as well as the presentation of a documentary that reconstructs the history of the photographic collection . The relationship between photography and literary reportage will be explored in Carlo Levi with Filippo La Porta; the portrait in painting and photography with Daniela Fonti; Southern literature, painting and photography with Antonella Lavorgna, the cultural and visual anthropological investigation of Southern Italy with Francesco Faeta, friendships and exchanges with great photographers such as David Seymour with Giovanna Hendel and Mario Carbone with Roberto Carbone, curator of the archive Mario Carbone. At the end, an in-depth study on the “documentary eye” with Lia Polizzotti and on the intellectual legacy of Carlo Levi through the figure of Luigi Di Gianni with Irene Pantaleo.

Biographical note.

The life of Carlo Levi (1902-1975) was marked by three great passions: painting, writing and politics that intersect throughout his life. He graduated in medicine, but at a very young age he became interested in painting, an activity that he did not abandon until his death, painting even during his imprisonment and his temporary blindness. He gets his first results starting from 1923 (first exhibition within the Turin Quadrennial) and regularly participates in national and international events with collective and personal reviews. In the following years Levi spent long periods in Paris and in 1929 exhibited with the group of the Six of Turin, supported by the critic Edoardo Persico and the art historian and critic Lionello Venturi. His pictorial activity leads him to associate with a group of Italian and foreign intellectuals who consolidate his political commitment as an anti-fascist (commitment of family tradition). Among the founders of Justice and Freedom (1929) he was arrested in 1934 and sent to confinement in Lucania from 1935 to 1936. From this experience was born the drafting of his most famous writing, Christ stopped at Eboli, published in 1945, which to know to the world the condition of the rural civilization of Southern Italy. The artistic activity continued intense throughout the post-war years until his death with personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad, intertwined with his constant literary production – L’Orologio, Fear of freedom, Words are stones (three days in Sicily) , A face that looks like us (Portrait of Italy), All honey is finished, The double night of the lime trees, The future has an ancient heart – and its presence on the political scene (elected independent senator on the Communist Party list in 1963 and in 1968). In 1973 he suffered from detachment of the retina and underwent two surgeries: in a state of temporary blindness, he made 140 drawings and wrote, with the aid of a special frame, the work that will be published posthumously with the title Quaderno a cancelli . He died in Rome on January 4, 1975.

The Carlo Levi Foundation was established in 1975 by the artist’s will and recognized as a non-profit organization in 1979. The statutory purposes of the Foundation are the conservation and enhancement of its patrimony which consists of a collection of 800 paintings; an archive of manuscripts and documentary material on the artist (declared of national interest by ministerial decree); a photographic archive of over 8000 photographic prints plus negatives. The Foundation provides, among other things, the organization of exhibitions, cultural events and conferences as well as study days, initiatives, educational activities also in collaboration with public and private, national and international bodies and institutions, to enhance the artistic heritage in its complexity. The Foundation is currently working specifically on the general catalog of the pictorial works in the collection, on the reorganization and digitization of the photographic collection.

The photographic archive of a protagonist of the twentieth century: Carlo Levi Curated by Daniela Fonti and the Carlo Levi Foundation Conceived and promoted by: Carlo Levi Foundation Winning project of the public announcement “Photography Strategy 2020” promoted by the Directorate General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture . Project promoted and supported by the General Direction for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture

“Photographic archive” on the Carlo Levi Foundation website from July 2021

Photo exhibition “A shot that looks like us: Carlo Levi’s photographic collection” September – December 2021

Study day “In the foreground places and people of Italy” October 2021

Carlo Levi Foundation Via Ancona 21 – Rome [email protected]

article published on: 24/06/2021

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