“This is a study of composition rendered in a warm burgundy-the result of the image’s “loss” of its true color over time”
The cover of the book is a testament to time and change with an indebted sense of the corporeal. A red rust color permeates the image and a long shadow of a clothesline pole stretches over towards the retaining wall on the modest balcony that oversees what appears to be a private plot of grape vines ascending toward the sun and the architecture of its climb; its ladder, is crafted from sticks and disused fence posts alike. The shadow of the pole is exemplary as it is a formal study of the sun’s long reaching tendrils, which stops just short of casting its heft over the aforementioned wall. This shadow is the superficial sundial that crosses the patio in perfect linear form with a larger looming shadow next to it.
This is a study of composition rendered in a warm burgundy-the result of the image’s “loss” of its true color over time. It is not an uncommon feature in slides or drugstore prints created through the hum of the machine-processed 70s, 80s, and 90,s. It is no surprise to see the “reddening effect” of decay on prints and slides in particular that underwent rapid processing. However on this cover, the display of the color shift is intentional. It is a reminder, a testament to things, places and people that change and fade. The umber patina is a reflection of circulating blood.
The first sequence of the book continues what has already been imagined on the cover. There are metaphoric shadow flotillas of dish washing towels or pillow cases crafted from the Warholian silver cloud melodramas thousands of miles away dancing in the reverie of the sun’s busking call, and the makeshift clothing line poll is envisioned at the end of the of this bittersweet sequence to reveal its true self, with a sliver of golden late summer sun nestling along its spine producing an animated and potentially chimerical affect in its repose. This examination of the patio from multiple perspectives is one of Guido Guidi’s trademarks. He reminds the viewer with his multiple POV shots of the patio that things must be seen obliquely. The representational aspects of the photograph are to be held in question at all time. There is in effect, always a different position to consider.
From here, I t would be pertinent to speak about Johannes Itten-the Swiss godfather of the defunct pre-war Bauhaus. Itten, the Bauhaus guru cum mystic, whose spiritual co-alignment with art was shunned as shamanism and bacchanalia was in fact a catalyst for the development of color theory in the Twentieth Century and also to be noted, a worshipper of flames (Mazdaznan). His color charts indicated an increased awareness of seasonal attitudes towards light and thus included a charismatic awareness of color and phenological type. His color charts and budding theories echoed in the footsteps of Goethe and a wide record of his pioneering thoughts on seasonal change in color theory is still considered relevant today. It can be argued that earlier seasonal analysis of color can be traced back to Botticelli and perhaps the incunabula of the fifteenth century- a prime example of “seasonal palette thinking” would be The Very Rich Hours of The Duke of Berry (Duc de Berry). This manuscript best exemplifies a rational discourse on the matter of the seasons, though it favors a lapis lazuli over a burnt umber in the autumn months.
“Itten, the Bauhaus guru cum mystic, whose spiritual co-alignment with art was shunned as shamanism and bacchanalia writ large was in fact a catalyst for the development of color theory in the Twentieth Century and also to be noted, a worshipper of flames (Mazdaznan)”
The book I am holding however indebted to Itten. It is a modern book of seasonal hours. It traces several seasonal shifts in the presumed northern Italian town of Cesena and it compliments people as much as it does passing cars and the long obsidian blades of shadows from the gutters of tiled rooftops. Throughout the book, I am reminded that though the photographs within are universally aimed at the celestial governing bodies that tempt earth’s rotation, that this is a very European slice of life that extends millennia backwards. The same brick hearth used to warm the yellow egg coated crust of the bread that occupies its hollow is relevant to European history’s probable similarities manifest in brilliant moments of quiet solitude-this bread has been baked many times before. The same shadow of the indigenous trees casting their umbrage over the stone façade of common houses are the same olive trees and stone pine that cast similar shadows over farmer’s and their animalerie centuries previous.
Guido Guidi’s Tra L’altro, 1976-1981 (MACK, 2020) is yet another brilliant gem of Guidi’s seemingly endless arrangements of his archive. The book features the common elements that make Guidi’s work exceptional-the small moments between frames joined together in what at first glance appears as repetition only to reveal the passing of a red fire truck or the slight shift of the wind on the laundry as it dries in the sun tethered to the worn stick which considers the sun and the author in equal aplomb, speaking widely about photography, time, the body and what is truly heroic-the moment.
There is a soft dance between the covers. Further, Guidi’s unerring eye focusses on shadows and the native place of Cesena area where he lives and produces a large amount of his work. There are forays to the beach and to other local climes, but the emphasis is very Italian and mostly Northern Italy from what I can perceive. In this work and what marks its slight distinction for me is to see more images of local people.
Though this is also a prominent feature in Veramente, one of my favorite of Guidi’s MACK titles, here in Tra L’altro, the people are not housed in the most flattering light-instead the Brueghelian sum of all winter mood descends upon the visages of local residents as they sweep the snow from the sidewalks and commiserate in thick wool sweaters. This brings honesty to the work, which marks Guidi’s poetic images as something earnest and less effluvial than his other equally brilliant images carried by the whisper of shadows across the landscape that the people inhabit. We are asked to reconcile a different potency in the work and to wait for the light to return. This is the seasonal shift paradigm in which you can follow the progress of light and color across an access of the sun or lack thereof. In effect, the book itself is a record of a sun dial.
There is a great interview in the back of the book from which I begin to pull my assertions about Itten. It is only a very small mention in Guidi’s background, but it is enough to unlock the book. There are other anecdotal bits of information about how the prints were made by a friend and enthusiast who had printed much of Guidi’s color work. There is even a mention of John Gossage whose work casts just as long of a shadow. This is important material and the book itself is another in a series of much needed Guidi publications. It took me awhile to get to Guidi, but now that I have, I am eager to see everything. As long as someone is around to publish these masterpieces of subtle brilliance there will be an ever-widening audience for Guidi’s nearly incredulous handling of beauty, color and time.