Gabriele Basilico

Work places

We miss Gabriele, who disappeared at the beginning of 2013. We miss his way of making us believe that nothing is banal.
His photos elevated the commonplace, not necessarily to make it more beautiful, but certainly to make it more interesting.
His highly precise frames and the right distance shots used to manipulate perspectives and symmetry enabled him to bring a sense of movement to solid mineral matter, making the frozen dynamic.
We thought we had already seen all his best photos. Here is a side that, apart a few photos, had never exhibited: corporate commissions.

Ansaldo, Larderello 1986

Loro Piana, Quarona 1991

Merone cement plant, Cassago 1996

Solvay, Rosignano 1995

Tioxide, Scarlino 1995

Born in 1944 in Milano.
Died in 2013.

Work's places by Roberta Valtorta

For forty years Gabriele Basilico has explored the complex organism of the city—a great human invention that has transformed nature into an unbroken fabric of constructions—and all the profound and frequently recurring modifications that have taken place in the contemporary landscape, making it an immense artificial scenario. He has always read humans, technical beings whose destiny is to modify the world around them, through everything they build without interruption. An intimate feature of the urban territory, workplaces are exemplary in this sense: for Basilico they are the very symbol of human activity in the industrial era. It should not be forgotten that the project during which, between 1978 and 1980, he chose documentary as a working method and the urban landscape as a definitive theme of this work, is Milano. Ritratti di fabbriche (Milan. Portraits of Factories). The body of the factory is at once a city and a production site, a powerful and significant architectural structure and an expression of human activity. When he observes the forms of workplaces, Basilico sees perfect organisms. If the city is, for him, a body with skin, nerves, blood vessels and organs— as he has often described it—when he photographs factories, machines and their smoothly functioning mechanisms he sees anthropomorphic forms: large arteries and tendons that crisscross the landscape, cogs that chase each other, duct arms that enter and exit, expand, converge and stretch away into the distance. All this takes place in a space that Basilico measures and handles with the skill we all know: it is a human space that contains the things built by humans. Basilico photographs, as he himself has said, the mineral things of the world. Not those made up of the minerals present in nature, but the ones developed in the course of human history. His gaze does not transfigure either structures or spaces: loyal to the documentary method that lies at the core of his vision, he simply makes them protagonists, because he is fully aware that they are a constitutive part of a culture he knows and which pertains to him. And if in his photographs these structures and spaces sometimes appear majestic, this is not because Basilico wants to make them be something they are not, or more than what they are, but, on the contrary, because he offers them up to our gaze in their evident and significant identity, not just as structures of production but also as human-made objects fully situated within history.
The factory, the mark it leaves on the landscape, and the machines, with their aesthetics, are one of the gréât themes of modern photography. Think, for instance, of Albert Renger Patzsch, Germaine Krull, François Kollar, Willy Zielke or Charles Sheeler, of Paul Strand himself or the great Walker Evans, of Ed Ruscha, or of Lewis Baltz with his industrial parks, and of the Bechers, inventors of a vision that turns industrial artefacts into marvellous "anonymous sculptures" on the territory. They are all artists who, as part of Basilico's universe, have, like him, observed how the world, in the course of the 20th Century, took on the same forms as industry, especially in the contemporary period, when the civilization of machines reached the peak of its maturity, before flowing into the present and complex, postmodern age.

Roberta Valtorta

Exhibition curated by
Giovanna Calvenzi, Gianni Nigro