Franco Fontana: Full Color
Franco Fontana‘s photos are characterized by bright colours, so vibrant as to appear unreal, rhythmic compositions of overlapping lines and planes, patterns built with light. The Palazzo Franchetti, Venice, is displaying over 130 of his photographs in the first major retrospective devoted to him.
Franco Fontana was among the first italian photographers to work with colour making it the main subject and not as a simple faithful documentation of facts. The 130 pictures show the stunning impact of the palette of a photographer who started as amateur and 1960’s and became internationally well-known professional in the 1970’s.
Photography is neither a craft nor a profession for me. It is simply the most important thing in my life, second only to the affection of my family and friends. It’s not enough to look, you must look with eyes that want to see and understand with the mind to believe in what you see. Taking photographs is an act of knowledge. What we photograph are reproductions of ourselves. The photographer dissolves in his photographs … for creative photography does not reproduce but interprets by making the invisible visible.
I try to isolate what usually gets lost in manifold particulars. This work of extracting some essential elements from the complexity in front of the human eye, corresponds to my inner need, finding a harmonious unity by erasing all disturbing elements, Fontana explains.
Franco Fontana was born in Modena in 1933. Since the 1960s, he has been one of the great masters of colour photography. His early studies on colour, space, form and light were presented in his first solo exhibition in Turin, at the Società Fotografica Subalpina in 1965, and in Modena in 1968.
He began his aesthetic investigation in 1961; in 1963, he exhibited at the Third International Biennal of Colour in Wien. Between the 1960s and the 1970s he published numerous books and had many solo and group exhibitions throughout Italy and Europe.
His most famous series Landscapes appeared for the first time in1970, in the solo exhibition at Palace of the Diamonds of Ferrara, showing a marvellous visual synthesis between chromatic perception and photographic ability to disclose nature?s hidden geometry. In his photographs Fontana isolates essential elements of abstraction from a sequence of forms, shapes and colours: for his pictorial sensibility he has been measured up to eminent painters such as Tobey, Rothko, Poliakoff?
In 1979 a trip in the United States forced him to confront with new urban spaces that deeply differed from the environment he had until then experienced. What he found was a surprising landscape, seemingly chaotic and disharmonic yet bursting with visual stimuli from which he could masterly isolate the most significant elements. Chromatic themes and geometrical forms still prevail in this series, titled Urban Landscape, as the works rarely portray a human figure. It?s only later on , with the series Presenza Assenza (end of 1979/1980) that human shapes appeared, in the form of ethereal and disquieting shadows, playing with architectural elements and overturning perspectives.
More eloquent then a tangible physical presence, these shadows symbolize the unconscious and thus emphasize the allusion to Italian metaphysical paintings (De Chirico, Savinio?). In fact, in his exploration of American cities, Fontana has often portrayed individuals with their own shadows, thus suggesting one again, through different representations, the unfathomable mystery of human nature. At the same time, his work Sorpresi nella luce Americana, 2001 pays homage to the vivid atmosphere of Edward Hoppers?s paintings and to the solitude of the alienated and humble protagonists of urban life. In 1981 he held different workshops in Arles and Venice and published a black and white work for the volume Contact, printed by Lustrum Press (New York). In 1985, at the University of Turin, Fontana held a number of workshops that were later on collected in the book La scrittura fotografica by Liborio Termine. In 1986, he started the successful collaboration with Alexander Liberman for Vogue Usa and Vogue France and also signed the promotional campaign for Volkwagen, Volvo, Ferrari, Grundig, Kodak etc. He subsequently signed several artistic calendars and other numerous advertising campaigns, including works for the fashion industry (Satoh, Versace, Hermes, etc.)
In 1989, he began to collaborate with the magazine ?Il Venerdi?, weekly insert of the Italian newspaper ?La Repubblica?, and in the same year, he was awarded the Premio della Cultura Presidenza dei Ministri, in Rome. In 1995, he participated in the Venice Biennale with the exhibit Un secolo di ritratto fotografico in Italia 1895-1995. In 2001, he was listed in the Enciclopedia Britannica and represented Italy, together with De Chirico, Schifano and Ceroli, at the First Biennial at The Museo de Arte de Buenos Aires.
Since 2000, Fontana has been carrying out a study on the microcosm of signs and fragments on urban street paving (Asfalti).