Michelangelo Pistoletto. Da Uno a Molti, 1956-1974


  • 4 March - 15 August 2011

    Gallery 2 and 3
    in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    curated by Carlos Basualdo

    Michelangelo Pistoletto: da Uno a Molti, 1956 - 1974, featuring more than 100 works from Italian and American public and private collections, presents one of the most important living Italian artists, internationally recognised as a key figure in contemporary art, one of the founding members of the Arte Povera movement and a guiding light for the younger generations. In the United States he is seen as a forerunner of participatory artistic practices.

    The exhibition examines the evolution of Pistoletto’s research, from a rigorous analysis of the representation of the self through to the development of the collaborative initiatives that also characterise his current work.

    The works are arranged in three principal groups. The Mirror Paintings and the Plexiglass works are exhibited together, respecting the conceptual grouping originally devised by the artist. Here Pistoletto portrays friends, relations and acquaintances as well as the groups of people in the Rallies and Protests series in which he investigates socio-political themes. The Minus Objects and the Rags and the works from the series Lights and Reflections are presented together in a single room.
    A separate space has been reserved for the Actions and Performances of the theatrical group Lo Zoo and features props associated with the performances, videos and photographic documentation.

    All these works help describe Pistoletto’s work within the context of the post-war transformations that affected Italy, Western Europe and North America, exploring the relationships between his work and Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptual Art, placing particular emphasis on the collaborative aspect of his work that characterised his research from the mid-1950s.

    The exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto: from One to Many, 1956-1974, is flanked by a second exposition Cittadellarte: that instead focuses on the creative laboratory of same name founded by Pistoletto in Biella in 1998, which fosters art’s capacity for networking and direct social interaction.


  • 4 March - 15 August 2011

    Gallery 2 and 3
    in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    curated by Carlos Basualdo

    Early Works
    Pistoletto was exposed to art from the age of fourteen by working with his father, a paintings restorer. In 1953 while studying with Armando Testa, founder of the foremost advertising school in Italy at the time, he was introduced to the most recent developments in European and American art. Continuously experimenting with the finish of his paintings he achieved planes of color that were both solid and reflective. In one of these surfaces, Pistoletto caught sight of his own image, unifying his reality and that of the painting in the instant of reflection.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gold Self-Portrait, 1960. Collection of the artist. Photo: Paolo Pellion di Persano

     

    Mirror Paintings
    After recognizing the possibilities opened up by confronting his reflection in the highly varnished surfaces of his early paintings, Pistoletto fully realized the potential of the mirror image in his celebrated Quadri specchianti (Mirror paintings), initiated in 1962. Crafted with polished stainless steel panels, the mirror paintings project the intensity of Pistoletto’s investigations. However, the contrast between the stasis of his figures or objects in the foreground and the mirror reflection of the present in the background generates space for both confrontation and interaction with the viewer, an instantaneous experience and an awareness of the passage of time.
    Donna seduta di spalle, 1963-64. The Sonnabend Collection

     

    Plexiglass Works
    Pistoletto’s Plexiglas works continue his contemplation on the nature of artifice and space. Whereas the mirror paintings investigate pictorial space through reflection, his Plexiglas works dwell on the relationship between simulacra, representation, and real space. Pistoletto radically rethinks the potential for ideas to drive art-making, stating in a text published in the catalogue for the Sperone show: “A ‘thing’ is not art: but the idea expressed by the same ‘thing’ may be.” Pistoletto’s cerebral approach anticipates conceptual art, which would come to the fore later in the 1960s.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto, Pile of Records, 1964. Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella. Photo: Paolo Pellion di Persano

     

    Minus Objects
    Pistoletto’s Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) represent both a joyful celebration of singularity and creativity and a deliberate rejection of repetition and stylistic uniformity. With varying mediums and meanings, the individual works embody his contingent and improvisational responses to his surroundings as a form of freeing his artistic identity. In 1966, Pistoletto stated, “[They are] not constructions, then, but liberations. I do not consider them more but less, not pluses but minuses.” The openness of the Oggetti in meno and the interactive and invitational quality of many of the works anticipated the spirit and several of the foundational aspects of the Arte Povera movement that would emerge in Italy in 1967.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto, Burnt Rose, 1965. Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy © Michelangelo Pistoletto. Photo by Paolo Bressano

     

    Lights and reflections
    On December 22, 1967, the Galleria Sperone in Turin became the site for an artistic reflection on the boundaries between art and life in the work of Pistoletto. At the time of the opening, however, the exhibition included only one sculpture - Pietra miliare (Milestone), a roadside post that marked the center of the gallery and the moment of its making, engraved at the top with the year 1967. Afterwards, he filled the gallery with works that emphasized notions of change and contingency through the use of reflections generated by Mylar, flickering candles, and dangling lightbulbs. At the center of this gallery, the fixed point of Pietra miliare’s robust form precisely marks time and bears witness to the circumstance and improvisation of the lights and reflections that surround it.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto, Painting of Electric Wires, 1967. MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo. Photo: Patrizia Tocci

     

    Rags
    The emergence of Pistoletto’s Stracci (Rags) series and his burgeoning penchant for performance were simultaneous endeavors, intertwining in 1968 on the occasion of the group exhibition Arte Povera + Azioni Povere in Amalfi. Traveling to the Arsenali dell’Antica Repubblica, where the exhibition was held, with his theater troupe, Lo Zoo, Pistoletto created an impromptu installation among some Roman ruins by dispersing rags that he had brought along to, as he states, “decorate the Roman objects... and in this way create my own little set design. I had arranged my own little theater.” The rags, which Pistoletto had previously used to polish his mirror paintings, transcend their original function, becoming the material of art.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto, Venus of the Rags, 1967. Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto. Photo: Paolo Pellion di Persano

     

    Actions, Performances, Lo Zoo
    Pistoletto’s Open Studio in the winter of 1967 - 68 provided a meeting place for creative thinkers - among them poets, musicians, and artists - some of whom would join Pistoletto in forming a collaborative group that called itself Lo Zoo (The Zoo). Part street theater troupe and part traveling performance collective, Lo Zoo found its raison d’être in a casual comment of actor Carlo Colnaghi, who compared his condition as an artist to that of a caged lion. Lo Zoo sought to break free of that cage - the restrictive and isolating position of the creative mind within the traditional structure of society - by engaging in both predetermined performances and impromptu actions in theaters and galleries and on the street.
    Michelangelo Pistoletto and Maria Pioppi in the performance. The Trumpets of Judgment, in the courtyard of the artist’s studio on via Reymond, Turin, Italy, 1968. Courtesy of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy.Photo by Paolo Bressano

  • 4 March - 15 August 2011

    Gallery 2 and 3
    in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    curated by Carlos Basualdo

    For this installation, the works in the exhibition have been distributed according to three main groups. The Quadri specchianti (Mirror paintings) and Plexiglass are installed together in Gallery 2 in a loosely chronological logic that respects the conceptual groupings originally conceived by the artist at the time of their making. Gli Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects), Stracci (Rags), and the works from the series Luci e riflessi (Lights and reflections) occupy the cascading platforms in Gallery 3.

    A special room located in between Galleries 2 and 3 is devoted to the Actions and Performances of the artist and Lo Zoo, and it contains related objects and stage props, as well as films and photographic documentation. Lastly, an illustrated chronology in Gallery 3 allows the viewers to situate the works historically, both in the context of Pistoletto’s life and within the significant socio-political and cultural events of his time.

    Photo by Sebastiano Luciano - MAXXI, the backstage

    Photo by Sebastiano Luciano - MAXXI, the backstage

  • 4 March - 15 August 2011

    Gallery 2 and 3
    in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    curated by Carlos Basualdo


  • 4 March - 15 August 2011

    Gallery 2 and 3
    in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    curated by Carlos Basualdo

    Michelangelo Pistoletto. Da Uno a Molti, 1956-1974
    Edited by Carlos Basualdo
    With contributions by Carlos Basualdo, Jean-François Chevrier, Claire Gilman, Gabriele Guercio, Suzanne Penn and Angela Vettese

    Michelangelo Pistoletto has persistently questioned and expanded the role of the spectator in art since the 1950s through painting, sculpture, and performance. His present standing as an inspirational figure among younger artists is a testament to the innovative vitality that characterizes all his work, from early paintings and leadership in the Arte Povera movement to his influence on current participatory artistic practices.
    This handsomely illustrated book features works created from 1956 to 1974, many never exhibited in the United States, as well as a selection of the artist’s writings. Contributors to the book discuss the context of Pistoletto’s art, including the social and artistic climate of Turin and the relationship between his work and American Pop art, conceptual art, minimalism, and post-minimalism.