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Watching and waiting: Mimmo Jodice at Museo Madre in Naples

01.07.2016. Art & Culture

Photography is all about waiting, watching and acting, and the delicate relationship between the three. According to great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the key to taking a great ‘people shot’ is to “Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn't go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick”.

But there’s also, in photography, another kind of waiting, one that the digital era has all but cancelled: the wait in the darkroom for the image to emerge, become fixed, and achieve the desired contrast. Today the closest most photographers come to this kind of wait is the time they spend altering images with Photoshop or uploading files to WeTransfer.

Attesa – ‘waiting’ – is the title chosen for a recently opened retrospective at Naples’ Madre museum of contemporary art, dedicated to Neapolitan maestro Mimmo Jodice, an analogue photographer who works almost exclusively in black and white. Born in 1934, Jodice has always been fascinated both by the materiality of his chosen medium and its power to capture the reality of the moment.

Teatralita Quotidiana Napoli

The first impulse is present in a series of experimental works from the 1960s in which photographs are torn, burnt, desaturated, or superimposed on or by the subject they represent in strange collages of reality and representation. The second comes through most strongly in a series of what today we would call ‘street photography’ works from the 1970s, of Neapolitan prisons, mental asylums, factories, religious processions, cholera epidemics and slum conditions, documented with the eye of a sympathetic observer but also a man who takes the long cultural and historical view, in which the Baroque theatricality of contemporary life in Naples resonates from an ancient, ritualistic past.

This Mediterranean cultural firmament became the main focus of Jodice’s photography after 1978 – the year in which he abruptly stopped taking pictures of people. From here on in his work took on a metaphysical quality in a series of cityscapes, landscapes, studies of ancient artefacts and common objects that dig down to expose the magical, spiritual roots of the world that surrounds us and suggest that time travel is not a sci-fi fiction, but a defining part of the human condition. Some of Jodice’s inspirations are also present in the Madre show – for example two classical sculptures, and paintings by, among others, Jusepe de Ribera, Giorgio De Chirico and Giorgio Morandi.

Mimmo Jodice: Attesa. 1960-2016 runs at Museo Madre until 24 October 2016.

Photo © Museo Madre

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