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“Cieli americani” in Bari In the photographs taken by Alberta Zallone, a scientist from Bari in love with the States, an interpretation of American spaces, amid urban settings and natural ones by Pietro Marino
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Alberta Zallone. North Carolina 2008

Cieli americani” (American skies) is the title of a photographic exhibition which has opened in Castello Svevo in Bari. On the invitation there is a striking photo of four houses with sloping roofs, standing out in their childish candor against a blue sky dotted with clouds. It resembles a picture by Hopper. However, the scene was photographed in North Carolina by Alberta Zallone, a scientist from Bari, a university teacher in Histology, who is in love with the United States, and nurtures a longstanding passion for photography. The exhibition is born of these two loves, and for the first time the artist offers the public a careful selection of pictures taken over the last ten years during her long stays, assiduous returns and attentive journey in the States. But it is not a show of spectacular “tourist” views. It is a proposal which interprets American spaces, those mysterious dimensions and relations in natural and urban landscapes that always hold a kind of fatal attraction for Europeans.

At the beginning of the catalogue, Alberta Zallone cites a phrase from America, the famous book by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard: “In America, space is a fully-fledged form of thought”. And that is what these are, the “skies” evoked by the photos: different ways of constructing spaces of human life in the city in a dialectic relationship with the architecture of lights and desert lands (and also the classic duality between the East and West Coast). Amid urban settings and natural ones, the researcher does not neglect the interstices of meaning and shifts of condition. Now we have a group of photos of New York that rest their gaze on the brown geometries under the Brooklyn Bridge and the elevated train, the long shadows at the street corners and the ghosts of citizens and policemen who can be seen against clouds of steam in the underground, dances at sunset on the waterfront in Manhattan, people exercising in Central Park. Opposite, almost in opposition, the Californian deserts amidst the velvety blacks of mountains and earth baked by the implacable sunshine, while in the reds of the setting sun traces of life can be seen in the unexpected motels and petrol pumps alongside sleepy tracks.

Between the two fundamental oppositions, another group of photos concentrates on the traces of the marginal life of the city; graffiti, notices, post boxes, the homeless. At the end, Alberta Zallone dips – in what is almost a voyage to the interior – into the dark shadows, the damp greens, the black trunks of the forests (from Carolina to Washington to Central Park). In Hawaii she investigates the precious symmetries of tropical leaves and light playing on the bushes. And it’s like returning to the ecstasy that in 2000 drew her to what looks like an abstract image: a black semi-arch standing out against a mass of pink cloud in the sky; an imperious take that looks like an abstract sign. It’s the famous, futuristic Gateway Arch in Saint Louis on the Missouri. But here, standing alone at the start of the display, it announces a journey, or rather, as the presenter Manlio Capaldi puts it, “a dive, into photography, like the poetry of a gaze”. The exhibition can be seen until 23rd November.

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