Between 1975 and 1985, Italian surface specialist Marazzi enlisted artist Luigi Ghirri to create a series of photographs that explore its ceramics tiles catalogues in a poetic, expressive way. Thirty photographs from this collection are now on view at Sassuolo’s Palazzo Ducale (until 31 October 2021) in the exhibition ‘Luigi Ghirri: The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985’, curated by Ilaria Campioli, and part of a book of the same title. The exhibition is scheduled to travel internationally, with the next stop being Paris, where the collection is going to be on show at the Italian Cultural Institute in November 2021, during Paris Photo.

Marazzi and Luigi Ghirri

A photograph of a rainbow and the shadow of a hand, shot on a background of pink and blue tiles by Marazzi
Pink and light blue tiles with a squared paper and pencils, photographed by Luigi Ghirri for Marazzi

‘Luigi Ghirri: The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985’ © Eredi Luigi Ghirri. Courtesy Marazzi Ceramiche

Marazzi is no stranger to creative collaborations. Having launched the company in 1935, Filippo Marazzi explored the identity of ceramic surfaces at a time when they were becoming popular, through collaborations with the likes of Venerio Martini and Gio Ponti. The founder’s grandson (also Filippo Marazzi) followed in his grandfather’s footsteps in the 1980s with the opening of an R&D department which he dubbed crogiolo (the crucible).

Among the creative collaborations kickstarted by third generation Marazzi are works by world-renowned photographers and artists such as Gianni Berengo Gardin, Cuchi White and Charles Traub. Ghirri was among them, and became a long-term contributor to Marazzi’s creative growth. Having grown up close to the Marazzi HQ, Ghirri had a special understanding of the product and its creation, and in 1975 he started documenting Marazzi tiles in a free, poetic manner. For the following ten years until 1985, Ghirri created dozens of photographs which, for the largest part, remained locked within the company’s archives. 

Photographs by Luigi Ghirri for Marazzi, shown on a light blue display inside Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo. The Palazzo’s frescoed walls are visible behind the display
Photography: Héctor Chico and Andrea Rossetti

The imaginative photography, reads a text accompanying the exhibition, forms ‘a research in which ceramics are read as surfaces and mental space, an infinite possibility of composition, light and colour’. Ghirri played with the ceramic surfaces to create landscapes, architectural spaces, background to aesthetic follies. He used flowers, objects, shadows and drawings to populate his images, creating an eclectic portfolio that showcases his vision as a photographer as well as Marazzi’s exemplary pieces. 

‘In his works for Marazzi, Luigi Ghirri placed the ceramic material within a wider reflection on representation,’ says Campioli. ‘The surfaces become part of this system of measuring and reducing the world into scale, which was so important for the artist in that period. The combination of the different planes and grids allowed him to further investigate and reflect on knowledge and learning, as if they were a new page on which to learn how to write and draw each time.’§

 

Photographs by Luigi Ghirri for Marazzi, shown on pink displays inside Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo
Photography: Héctor Chico and Andrea Rossetti