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On View: Exploring the "NeoRealismo" Life of Mid-Century Italy

By David Schonauer   Tuesday September 4, 2018


New York is getting real this month.

Or rather, it’s getting “NeoRealismo.”

Beginning on Sept. 6 and running through Dec. 8 at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery is “NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932-1960,” the first major museum exhibition to spotlight key Italian photographers recording life during the era. The exhibition, curated by critic and journalist Enrica Viganò, pairs work from 60 Italian artists with the original publications in which their images circulated, from illustrated magazines and photography books to exhibition catalogs.

Also on view will be excerpts from important films from post-war neorealism directors Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti, alongside related movie posters.

But wait, there’s more!

On Sept. 12 New York’s Howard Greenberg Gallery will open an exhibition featuring Italian photography from the era, while the Museum of Modern Art will begin featuring post-war Italian photography from its own collection.

A selection of the photographs will also be on view at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. Below is a video previewing the work:


The exhibition at the Grey Art Gallery has been traveling through Europe to acclaim; its American debut is accompanied by the publication of an English-language edition of Viganò’s catalog for the show—which includes a forward by film director Martin Scorsese.

That’s only appropriate: What Viganò has done is to extend the idea of cinematic neorealism to a broader cultural universe: The term neorealism typically refers to post-war films (as well as literature) that depicted the lives of the poor and working classes in Italy — not only their difficult economic conditions but also the moral choices people in dire conditions after the war were forced to make. Italian neorealism films had a significant impact on the French New Wave and, ultimately, on filmmaking in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Mario Cattaneo, From the series Alleys in Naples, Naples, 1951–1958


Tranquillo Casiraghi, People of the Torretta, Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, c. 1950


Alfredo Camisa, The sickle, Tuscany, 1955


“NeoRealismo takes a unique approach to the period between 1932 and 1960 in bringing together various media and materials that have never before been grouped together in the same context,” says Viganò.

Pasquale De Antonis, Rapino, lucky fishing, Abruzzo, 1935


Mario De Biasi, The Italians turn around, Milan, 1954


Mario De Biasi, Sunday in August, Milan, 1949


There are a number of panel discussions accompanying the Gray Art Gallery exhibition, including one titled “Neorealism and Photography: The New Image in Italy” (September 10, 6:00–7:30pm at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo, 24 West 12th Street, NYC) and another titled “Italian Humanist Photography” (November 16, 6:00pm, at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò).

And there’s a scheduled day trip Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Harbor, New York, a private warehouse space that presents exhibitions on Postwar and Contemporary Italian Art (Saturday, September 15, 9:30 am–5:00pm, trip via Metro North Railroad and bus). Go here for more information.
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At top: Piergiorgio Branzi, Piazza Grande in Burano, Venice, 1957

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