Starting Over

The Rise of Post-War Italian Realism

Mario de Biasi. "Gli italiani si voltano, Milano" (The Italians Turn Around, Milan). 1954.

BY: Jes Zurell

No one makes it to adulthood without having been forced to start over. A gruesome breakup, the death of a loved one, the relinquishment of a vice – there are thousands of ways you could be brought to your knees and the cause that pushes you down usually doesn’t care about how much rug burn it causes.

 

What’s fascinating about humanity in a particularly messed-up way is that for all the catastrophes that necessitate a new beginning, there are twice as many ways to turn it into something beautiful.

 

This is the underlying theme of “The New Beginning for Italian Photography: 1945–1965,” which opened at Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York on September 12 and shows through November 10. The exhibition reveals the curves of the Italian post-WWII zeitgeist in ways that thousands of news cycles gradually cemented over with bigger, newer destruction.

 

Ironically, many of the photographs included in the show were taken by photographers who sought to earn a living through photojournalism beginning in “year zero,” 1945, when the world hit its bloody reset button. The scenes are working-class, curious, and seem taken with an eye that is cautious about the new world.

 

They are on the lookout, and the effect is like watching a virgin strip: Fascinating. A little dirty. A little secretive and awkward, but damn if that isn’t perfection incarnate. You know where it’s going even when they don’t, and you’re in it for the eyeful anyway.

 

We don’t mean to downplay the horrors of war – not by any means – but the Italians as a people, as flesh and blood humans with families and lovers and dreams, have a way of doing everything beautifully, even emerging from rubble.

 

Starting over can be breathtaking.

 

Stefano Robino photography
Stefano Robino. “Calla Mole antoneilliana (From The Mole Antonelliana). 1970

 

Sante Vittorio Malli. "Treni" (Trains). 1957
Sante Vittorio Malli. “Treni” (Trains). 1957

 

Sante Vittorio Malli. "Notturno No. 1" (Night No. 1). 1957
Sante Vittorio Malli. “Notturno No. 1” (Night No. 1). 1957.

 

Sante Vittorio Malli. "Controluce" (Backlit). 1958.
Sante Vittorio Malli. “Controluce” (Backlit). 1958.

 

Mario Giacomelli. "Scanno." 1957-59.
Mario Giacomelli. “Scanno.” 1957-59.

 

Mario Giacomelli. "Scanno" (Boy). 1957.
Mario Giacomelli. “Scanno” (Boy). 1957.

 

Mario Giacomelli. "Presa di conscienza sulla natura." 1970-76.
Mario Giacomelli. “Presa di conscienza sulla natura.” 1970-76.

 

Mario di Biasi. "Napoli." 1950s.
Mario di Biasi. “Napoli.” 1950s.

 

Fulvio Roiter. "Valcamonica." 1962.
Fulvio Roiter. “Valcamonica.” 1962.

 

Enrico Cattaneo. "Giovani d'Oggi, Milano." (Youth Of Today, Milan). 1961.
Enrico Cattaneo. “Giovani d’Oggi, Milano.” (Youth Of Today, Milan). 1961.

 

Augusto Cantamessa. "Breve Orizzonte (Brief Horizon). 1955.
Augusto Cantamessa. “Breve Orizzonte (Brief Horizon). 1955.