A Global Eye: John McCurry at the Palazzo Ducale

If you stop by the northern Italian city of the Genoa within the next month, make a point of visiting the stunning Palazzo Ducale to see this curious display. An American photographer with international appeal, a number of McCurry’s works will be very familiar to you.

John McCurry, Herat: Afghanistan (1990)

John McCurry, Herat: Afghanistan (1990)

The exhibition has been set up in an unusual but visually entrancing manner. Four rooms draw out different aspects of the work; the first holds the individual portraits McCurry is most famous for. Hyperreal faces gaze out from vibrant images, these are not the dusty grainy images of ‘faraway’ on the TV news. The works are hung in a series of rows on black gauze so that you can see people peering through from the next row, enticing you forward through the exhibition. As with most portraiture, it is the eyes which have it, conveying a full range of human emotion. They are angry, beseeching, cocksure, bemused, scared, but always present. Towards the back of this first exhibition space are images of decapitated and crumbling statues, a reminder of past civilisations which have turned to dust.

See many different faces peering back at you out of the dark backdrop.

See many different faces peering back at you out of the dark backdrop.

In the second room are dissimilar pictures, all detailing in horrific clarity very real and very human catastrophes. Not grouped by location, images of war and destruction in Japan, Kuwait, Afghanistan, New York and India are all intermingled. Young children hold or play with weaponry, grieving parents sit with their injured children in makeshift hospitals, there are charred, bloody and mangled bodies. Here the slick, ultra sharp quality of the photographs makes these seem like the realest images of disaster you have seen, movie like but not to the point where the individual tragedies are minimised.

The third room couldn’t be more different. Small, always colourful, individual portraits are collected together around a central stand. These multiple images of happiness are displayed at various heights on different faces of stacked cubes. People from around the world take moments of pleasure in everyday things, a girl in India whooshes into view on a swing, a man in Madrid gazes at art on a gallery wall. The size of these works is strategic; you pull in closer and so are drawn in to these intimate worlds, small glimpses of global hopes and joy.

You’ll leave the exhibition through the last room of photographs, larger format images hung at eye level and above, at irregular intervals and back to back. Wandering around the room gazing upwards make sure you don’t bump into your fellow visitors. Again, characters from different countries are mixed up together in a melting pot of curiosity-provoking and often amusing scenes. People are walking, swimming, working and living against vibrant multi-coloured backdrops, revealing themselves to be just like us. What could be more interesting and uplifting than this?

A visitor appears entranced by one of the lovely, wondrous images in the last display room.

A visitor appears entranced by one of the lovely, wondrous images in the last display room.

Curated by Peter Bottazz. On display until 7th April 2013.


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