Olivo Barbieri’s "American Monument and Monument"
              Ilaria Bombelli
              Olivo Barbieri’s new solo showthe title of which winks at The American Monument (1976), the acclaimed, anti-spectacular photography book by Lee Friedlander, in which he photographed grand civic monuments against the quotidian surroundings of billboards, streets, and parks—comprises a group of 20 large-format photographs, almost all taken in 2017 in California, alongside a few that relate to Italian art, such as photographs of paintings by Piero della Francesca and Guercino. At first, the show appears to present a stereotypical America: the America of Silicon Valley (Apple Park Cupertino CA), guns (South Boulder City NV), fertility clinics (Redwood City CA), heroic artists (Hamburger Monument #2 after Mark Rothko White Center 1957 LACMA Los Angeles), liposuction centers (Los Angeles CA), or donut-shaped signs (Long Beach CA). But for Barbieri, this America—which stands, for him, for the West more broadly and, as Oswald Spengler saw it, its imminent decline—is also a personal fund of memories. “I happened to be passing through Florence, in Arizona,” he says, pointing Tom Mix Monument Florence AZ, a photograph of a battered metal cut-out of a horse riddled with bullets, “when I recognized this monument to [American movie star] Tom Mix that I had seen in one of Friedlander’s …

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