29 March - 6 August 2023
Ugo Mulas. The Photographic Operation
The exhibition Ugo Mulas. The Photographic Operation, which will be presented on the occasion of the inauguration of the new centre and will be visitable from 29 March to 6 August 2023, has been realised in collaboration with the Archivio Mulas and curated by Denis Curti and Alberto Salvadori, director of the archive. The project coincides with the 50th anniversary of the death of the author on 2 March 1973.More than 300 images, including 30 photographs never displayed before now, documents, books, publications and films, offer a summary capable of offering an interpretation that opens up to the different experiences faced by Ugo Mulas (Pozzolengo, 1928 – Milan, 1973), a photographer transversal to all the pre-established genres and capable of investigating different themes, always seeking the depth of the “human quantity”.
Among the most important figures in post-WWII international photography, as a self- taught Mulas soon understood that being a photographer means providing a critical testimony of society, and it was precisely this awareness that guided his first photo reportage between 1953 and 1954: the Milanese periphery and the artistic and cultural environment of the famous Bar Jamaica in the early 1950s. Mulas quickly established himself in the various spheres of photography, from fashion to advertising, publishing in numerous magazines such as “Settimo Giorno”, “Rivista Pirelli”, “Domus” and “Vogue”. In those years the photographer developed an important artistic collaboration with Giorgio Strehler, thanks to which he would publish the photo reports “L’opera da tre soldi” [The Threepenny Opera] (1961) and “Schweyck nella seconda guerra mondiale” [Schweyck in the Second World War] (1962).
Devoting attention to the world of art and artistic production became one of the Mulas’ main interests; he photographed the editions of the Venice Biennale from 1954 to 1972. In 1962 he documented the exhibition “Sculture nella città” [Sculptures in the City] in Spoleto, where he associated himself above all with U.S. sculptors David Smith and Alexander Calder. From this period there is also the series devoted to Ossi di Seppia by Eugenio Montale (1962-1965). The summer of 1964 was significant for Mulas. U.S. Pop Art was introduced to the European public at the Venice Biennale; the photographer obtained the collaboration of critic Alan Solomon and the support of art dealer Leo Castelli, who introduced him into the U.S. artistic panorama during his first trip to the United States.
He was thus able to portray important painters at work, including Frank Stella, Lichtenstein, Johns and Rauschenberg, and important figures such as Andy Warhol and John Cage.
The collaboration with the Americans was to continue in 1965 and subsequently in 1967, the year in which Mulas presented his analysis of work with the artists, publishing the famous volume “New York: arte e persone” [New York: Art and People].
Also fundamental, among others, was his collaboration with Marcel Duchamp, which revealed something deeper and more general in Mulas’ conception of the portraits of the artist. «Duchamp’s photographs» – specified Mulas – «are intended to be something more than a series of more or less successful portraits; rather, they are the attempt to render visually Duchamp’s mental attitude towards his own work, an attitude that took shape in years of silence, in a refusal to do, which is a new way of doing, of continuing a discourse».
Le Verifiche [The Verifications] (1968-1972), a series of thirteen photographic works through which Mulas discusses photography itself, are devoted to the formal and conceptual analysis of the photograph.
The title of the Venetian exhibition “Ugo Mulas. L’operazione fotografica” [Ugo Mulas. The Photographic Operation] draws inspiration precisely from one of the Verifiche and condenses the photographer’s extraordinary reflections.
The exhibition itinerary winds its way through 14 sections, examining all Mulas’ fields of interest. From theatre to fashion, with portraits of friends and personalities from literature, cinema and architecture photographed as “posing models”, from landscapes and cities to his experience with the Venice Biennale and with the artists of Pop Art. One section, naturally, is devoted to Milan and the famous Bar Jamaica, which the great Luciano Bianciardi describes in his book “La vita agra” as “the bar of the Antilles”.
«The Jamaica» – observes Denis Curti – «is the place for meetings, for close friendships, those with Mario Dondero, Piero Manzoni, Alfa Castalfi, Pietro Consagra, Carlo Bavagnoli and Antonia Bongiorno, who would become his wife. This section is followed by a chapter devoted to industrial projects and the more interesting experiences with Olivetti and Pirelli. To close the itinerary, the most significant “series” for Mulas himself, those devoted to Calder, to Duchamp and the fundamental “verifications”, which are certainly to be considered one of the most interesting “experiments in critical thought” on photography».
Le Stanze della Fotografia website ︎︎︎