Vitali’s most enduring series, beginning in the 1990s, consists of large-scale, color photographs of vacationers and tourists enjoying idyllic days at the beach. Intense sunlight, endless expanses of water, and a cheerful confetti of travelers are visual signatures of his artwork. These scenes reflect a profound curiosity about the human condition, as observed through the shared pursuit of leisure. “The beach is a good place to try to understand the way we are, the way we behave,” Vitali asserts.


Vitali makes his photographs from a distant, slightly raised vantage point. This perspective allows the artist to record the activities of large groups of people across sweeping vistas. The interface he often records between ocean and earth is perhaps one of the most prized and universally comforting landscapes across cultures and time. In addition to the physical sensations these scenes evoke, the places where land and water merge suggest symbolic and physical journey for the subjects, a port linking possibilities.


These compositions reflect a deep awareness of Renaissance Humanism, recalling Protagorus’ postulation that “man is the measure of all things.” Peering into the pleasures, values, and social conventions of the present, Vitali’s images give paramount attention to human experience— integrating paradise with everyday concerns.


Vitali’s fascination with humanity extends beyond a generalized endorsement of earthly experience and leisure. In tradition with generations of Italian artworks before him, Vitali’s practice stresses the individuality and autonomy of his subjects. His unstaged and unmanipulated photographs embrace a veristic portrait style that does not camouflage or retouch “imperfections,” but rather reveals bodies on display and shows each feature as one that bestows its owner with distinction, personality, and essence.


In addition to beaches and summer resorts, since the 1990s Vitali’s oeuvre has grown to include scenes of people at ski resorts, piazzas, nightclubs, shopping markets, migration centers, and more. Regardless of the location or activity he is documenting, Vitali’s interest in how humans connect with each other and their environments is central.


Vitali was born in Como, Italy in 1944 and is currently based in Lucca, Italy. His work has been the subject of numerous solo shows internationally and is in the collections of leading museums and institutions including the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, and the Centre Pompidou, Fondation Cartier, and Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris. Monographs of Vitali's work include Beach & Disco (Steidl Verlag, 1999), Landscapes with Figures (Steidl Verlag, 2004), Landscapes with Figures 2 (Steidl Verlag, 2011), Natural Habitats (Steidl Verlag, 2011), and Entering a New World: Photographs 2009-2018 (Steidl Verlag, 2019). In 2020, Studio Massimo Vitali released a limited edition accordion book of 16 images made following Italy's spring lockdown, titled Leporello 2020: No Country for Old Men


Vitali's first solo exhibition with Edwynn Houk Gallery will be on view from 5 May - 15 July 2022. 

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