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Remembering Gianfranco Gorgoni Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

28 September 2019

Gianfranco Gorgoni, who photographed some of the best-known images of art formed by land masses as well as portraits of the leading painters and sculptors of his time, has died. He was 77.

Gorgoni was born on Christmas Eve in 1941, arriving in the U.S. from Italy in 1968 by boat. He had promised to pay for the crossing with a photo essay about the journey.

Upon arrival, he visited hippie communes across the country, photographed Woodstock and then settled in New York City where he frequented Max's Kansas City, a nightclub and restaurant, where he mingled with the era's prominent artists.

His land art images often included a human being for scale.

The art dealer Leo Castelli, who staged four Gorgoni solo shows between 1972 and 1996, helped fund his pursuit of some of the more famous artists of the day including Walter De Maria, Bruce Nauman, and Joseph Beuys, all of whom were featured in Gorgoni's 1972 book The New Avant-Garde: Issues for the Art of the Seventies.

When he went to Utah to shoot Spiral Jetty on Earth Day of 1970, the artist Joan Jonas and her partner, the sculptor Richard Serra, went along.

Later in the decade he documented Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Bay area project Running Fence and shot portraits of Keith Haring, Agnes Martin, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Ellsworth Kelly.

"His photographic contribution to the historical record of the art world, particularly the first Earthworks and his incredible portraits of artists from the 1970s onward will live on as will his brave, tireless spirit," his New York dealer Jim Kempner said.

His land art images often included a human being for scale. And in one case at least, that human was the artist himself. Gorgoni's black-and-white shot of Spiral Jetty shows the artist Robert Smithson, who had commissioned a helicopter for the shoot, standing where the spiral joins the mainland.

He also experimented with panoramic images by stitching together multiple images of the same scene.

When he wasn't chasing the art world, Gorgoni worked as a reporter for the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Life, Time and other publications.

The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, which acquired his archive of more than 2,000 documentary images in 2016, will exhibit Gorgoni's land art in October.

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