Go See – Philadelphia: Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974 Retrospective at Philadelphia Museum of Art Through January 17th

January 4th, 2011

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mappamondo (Globe), 1966-1968. Via NY Times

Prior to being encased in the metal cage above, Michelangelo Pistoletto‘s solid newspaper Globe was rolled through the streets of Philadelphia as a recreation of the artist’s first ‘walking sculpture.’ Using mirrors, public performance, and sculptures like the newspaper ball, the Italian artist includes his audience as a core function of his work.  Spanning his early years, from 1956-1974, From One to Many at the Philadelphia Museum of Art captures the evolution of Pistoletto’s participatory art with over 100 works, from the Mirroring Paintings, Minus Objects, and Rags, to various footage of Happening-esque enactments by his acting troup Lo Zoo, with a portion also devoted to his all inclusive art-community Citadellarte which he founded in 1998.

More text and images after the jump…

From One to Many installation view, via NY Times

Four of the ten galleries contain Pistoletto’s Mirroring Paintings, each gallery representing a distinct approach to the mirrors. First starting with self-portraits on solid-color backgrounds, he moved to the polished stainless steel surfaces to evoke active participation from his viewers while highlighting the temporality of one’s surroundings as reflected in the mirror. Pistoletto uses blown-up photographs to carefully paint onto the large steel plates, painting new poses and actions in each series. The third series is the most informal, based on everyday postures of Italian society, painted with much more color. The fourth and final series adapts photos of political protests and rallies into timeless images of social unrest and change.

Gallery 5: Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects). Via NYTimes

The mirrored galleries are punctuated by other investigations of sculpture. While his clear Plexiglas Works question the very nature of sculpture–prior to Conceptualism–the Minus Objects demonstrate Pistoletto’s “acts of liberation” in the emerging Minimalism sculptural style.

Gallery 6: Luci e riflessi (Lights and Reflections)

Much as his mirror pieces point to the temporality of art and life–with a static painted image over a dynamic reflection–melting candles contrast the omnipresence of electric lights. Yet the Pietra miliare (Milestone) remains stuck in 1967, its date of creation stamped atop the roadside post.

Gallery 7: Stracci (Rags). Via NYTimes

Monumentino (Little Monument)
, 1968. Via NYTimes

Pistoletto’s reused mirror-polishing rags came to symbolize the Arte Povera movement, in particular, Venere degli stracci (Venus of the Rags). Venus juxtaposes the ‘poor art’ associated with Arte Povera as well as the relevant Poor Theatre with the classic beauty of a white sculpture of Venus.

Lo Zoo performance, 1968. Via Angel Flores

Actions, Performances, and Lo Zoo is the self-explanatory name of Gallery 9. Though many of the artist’s ‘happenings,’ in galleries, clubs, and the street, were events for which you simply had to be there, some photos and videos do exist. His improvisational group Lo Zoo made public demonstrations like lying on the sidewalk, meant to disrupt the status quo and bring attention to social change.

Cittadellarte’s Mediterranean Table Love Difference, 2005. Via LoveDifference

In conjunction with Pistoletto’s retrospective, Cittadellarte and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are holding workshops, lectures, and performances throughout the exhibition. The group’s goal is “to inspire and produce responsible change in society through ideas and creative projects.” With a focus on social benefit, the displayed Mediterranean Tables are set for cultural discussion and teamwork, shaped like seas–somewhere ‘in-between’ the politics of grounded nations.

AO on site at the 2010 Venice Biennale for Pistoletto’s performance of Seventeen Less One – Photo by Art Observed

-S. Sveen

Related links:

Michelangelo Pistoletto [Philadelphia Museum of Art]
Reflections on the Self and the Wider World [New York Times]