After a dear friend introduced me to Croppi’s images, I was immediately struck by the power and beauty of his work, and I knew I needed to contact Gabriele himself immediately. Having been involved in contemporary photography as a curator and dealer for over two decades, it was challenging to find black and white work that is at once novel and exciting. Throughout the 20th century we have seen every form of landscape, nude and other genre captured in gelatin silver and platinum prints by scores of brilliant artists. But to produce innovative black and white images in the 21st century that reveal something fresh and exciting, is indeed very difficult. Moreover, to find an artist who is capturing photographs of New York City, arguably the most photographed and documented city in the world, is even a greater challenge. I had just finished a book on New York entitled New York: A Photographer’s City, published by Rizzoli, which highlighted contemporary artists who captured a post-9.11 New York. I only wish I had known of Croppi’s work before I produced this book, since he would have been a perfect addition to the premise of the volume, namely to capture photographs of this city that stand in contrast to the 20th- century images of NY that are in our collective memory, images of a vertical New York.
Croppi’s work stands out for its stark form and composition, juxtaposing solitary figures in some of the busiest and most chaotic areas of the city. Croppi himself seems to perceive the weakness of the objective world and the interior resonance that his dark tones and emptiness are capable of obtaining. The color black, so very dominant in this series, far from being a mere stylistic element, acts as a dramatic process which responds to the statement by Henri Michaux: “Black takes us back to the base, to the origin of profound sentiment. From the night we have the inexplicable, the un-detailed, the unobtainable, the surprise attack, mystery, religion, fear... and monsters, those that come from nothing, not from a mother.”
An estrangement is carried out by an obstinate focusing on all the particulars of the image, with the conviction, emphasized by the artist himself, that in photography the metaphysical dimension is strengthened by an extremely realistic or even a hyper-realistic language. Faithful as always to an aesthetic which refuses traditional formalism, Croppi reaffirms this ability to grasp multiple phenomenologies constructed out of moments of reference to painting and literature, with a sense of applied temporality through superimposition and a collision of contrasting moments. Our concerns of the human condition are microcosms in these photographs: ghosts with elusive faces, petrified passers-by, swallowed up by shadows in a space which they are both victims and strangers at the same time.
Again an interior landscape. Again journey and thought concerning space: espace du dedans.
Marla Hamburg Kennedy is a leading dealer and consultant, and major collector of 20th and 21st century photography, painting and sculpture. With 30 years experience in the fields of fine art, photography, contemporary art and publishing, Ms. Hamburg Kennedy was previously the Director of the Howard Greenberg Gallery, Vice President of the art e-commerce site On view, and managing Partner of Kennedy Boesky Photographs until starting Hamburg Kennedy Photographs in 2004.
Marla Hamburg Kennedy
Ms. Hamburg Kennedy has also published and authored photography books including Looking at Los Angeles (Metropolis/DAP 2005), co-edited with Ben Stiller, a sell-out edition that received countless accolades and honors, including being nominated the best art book on Amazon.com. A more recent book, New York: A Photographer’s City (Rizzoli 2011), co-edited with the renowned designer Richard Pandiscio, captures New York City in a post 9.11 perspective by contemporary artists, showing a more horizontal and conceptual approach to capturing the city. She has just completed the first monograph of the celebrated fashion photographer Ormond Gigli, containing dozens of unpublished images.