Italian artist Luca Massaro has been building a solid body of work on “the invisible space that separates an image from its caption, photographs from words, in their different forms of production, translation and transmission”. Through an eclectic array of photographs, words, sculptures, installations and artists’ books, concocted with advertising techniques of manipulation, borrowed from the urban and online accelerated mediascape, such as the proliferation of backlit devices, the repetition of graphic logos and leitmotifs, his work plays with the conflicting hybridization of iconotexts today.

Ten years ago, Massaro began his affair with words in the public space and landscape, which initially emerged in a sort of photographic encyclopedia, his book Foto Grafia (Danilo Montanari Editore, 2015). With his new multimedia piece Dizionario Vol.1 (Art Paper Edition, 2023) he goes one step further. 

As the entry of a dictionary has lost its linguistic autonomy and has become ancillary to the imagery picture of the term it defines, like a caption, Massaro exacerbates this concept by building a multi-volume dictionary in which words and entries are replaced by images of words indexed in alphabetic order.

For Volume 1, these images-words have been shot in the public space and mostly, yet not exclusively, in the urban landscape, since 2012 in Europe, Japan, Mexico and North America.

Dizionario is a long-term project: every ten years the artist will publish a volume that assembles around 1000 new images accumulated in the previous decade from his personal archive. This verbo-visual archive, a collision of signs, layers and transparencies, which creates abstract images out of language, is used as a matrix for the fabrication of new works with various materials. 

Through vectorial processes and the hybridization of the graphic and the photographic, the commercial and the semiotic, the volumes of the dictionary become the raw material to craft interventions and site-specific installations, where the photographed words are exhibited out of context, printed on public billboard, painted on zinc coated steel in molten iron frame, almost generating a second, more sculptural dictionary.

In this way Massaro’s project becomes a semiotic organism that questions and somehow resists the cultural and socio-political values of the images and texts that haunt our psyche and permeate a shared worldview.

Dizionario Vol.1 (2021–2022) is going to be presented today at 6 PM, at Triennale Milano, on the occasion of the second appointment of Photobooks Now! The meeting is introduced by Lorenza Bravetta, curator for Photography, Cinema and New Media at Triennale Milano, and Bruno Ceschel, curator of the series of meetings. In dialogue with the curators are Jurgen Maelfeyt, founder of APE publishing house, and Luca Massaro, talking about the relationship between words and public space.

Luca Massaro (Reggio Emilia, 1991) is an artist, photographer and founder of Gluqbar, Milan. After a degree in Foreign Literatures and Linguistics at Università Cattolica Milano and Université Sorbonne Paris IV, he started a research at the intersection of photographs and words, in the invisible space that separates an image from its caption, in their different forms of production, translation and transmission.