For its fall 2021 exhibition, Galerie Miranda
presents a personal exhibition by Gérard Dalla Santa (b. 1947, France). Entitled Des Paysages Longtemps, the exhibition takes its name from a short poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.
The photographs presented in this solo show proceed from Gérard Dalla Santa's research into landscape that is anchored in two traditions: that of documentary photography and that of outdoor landscape painting (Corot, Courbet, Pissarro and Cézanne...) that considered the topography as well as the historical and collective dimension of landscape. Temporal markers punctuate the work of Gérard Dalla Santa, who captures, in the present tense of photography, the intersection between the time of landscape and the time of its representation. In his recent landscapes of river banks, the artist employs the picturesque and the banal to reveal a newfound lyricism, allowing living beings - human and animal - to enter the field on equal terms with nature.
Dalla Santa's work echoes the writings of English historian Simon Schama, whose seminal and exceptional publication 'Landscape and Memory' (Vintage books, 1995) draws upon science, geography, politics, literature, religion, art, architecture and mythology to weave a narrative of the 'necessary union' throughout history between civilization and nature. Avoiding the usual duel of conquering mankind vs. passive nature, Schama, seeks instead to reveal what binds them. To paraphrase Schama's introductory text:
"If...our entire landscape tradition is the process of a shared culture, it is by the same token a tradition built from a rich deposit of myths, memories and obsessions. The cults which we are told to seek in other native cultures - of the primitive forest, of the river of life, of the sacred mountain - are in fact alive and well and all about us if only we know where to look for them.... Instead of being yet another explanation of what we have lost, this (book) is an exploration of what we may yet find."
For Gérard Dalla Santa, these images do not evoke a nostalgia for things past but are instead a proposal for the repairing of a damaged world.
Gérard Dalla Santa's first photographic works date from 1978 and feature urban scenes, the banks of the Seine river, vistas of highways. Interested in mobility and movement, Dalla Santa is largely influenced by street photography and American underground literature. Since the 90s, Gérard Dalla Santa has focused mainly on landscape work, considering mankind's transformative effect on the landscape, memory space and coexistence across time. He first explored the southwest region of France, the greater Paris region where country and city overlap, and since 1993, has continued to explored these themes in the landscapes of Pennsylvania in the USA, drawing upon personal references that include Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams.
From 2000 he broadened his field to include representations of work, bringing a poetic and delicate reading the body and its gestures within the context of labour. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from the CNAP (Centre National des Arts Plastiques), towards a project on the city of PIttsburgh, its industrial heritage within the urban tissue and the city's permanent cycle of demolition and construction.
His recent landscapes are places that bear witness to the interaction between man and nature. In the 2020 lockdown, he photographed every day the Belleville-Menilmontant neighbourhood of Paris where he lives, the series was acquired by the Musée Carnavalet in 2021. Gérard Dalla Santa has received several institutional grants and commissions and participated in numerous personal and group exhibitions in France and in Europe. His works figure in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou, the Frac Aquitaine, the Frac Midi-Pyrénées, the Fonds National dArt Contemporain and the Fondation dEntreprise Hermès.