Michelangelo Pistoletto invites us to complete his latest artworks in the Simon Lee Gallery with images of ourselves. This is his second exhibition in the gallery (entitled Lavoro), of his ‘mirror works’, which are constructed of reflected stainless steel so the final product is forced to change every time someone enters into close proximity of the work.
Lavoro is Italian for ‘work’ ; the mirror medium is superimposed with silk screened prints of construction materials and elements of a building site. The entire gallery floor is interspersed with thematic elements such as erratically placed ladders and stacks of crates which, in turn, interact with the mirrored images exhibited around the room, changing what can be viewed while the spectator is in motion.
Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Italy in 1933 and was one of the seminal artists of the Arte Povera movement, which was deemed the ‘poor art movement’ in the 60s and which encouraged the use of found materials as opposed to the previous expense often incurred by high-quality artist mediums. His work is mainly concerned with the concept of reflection, and the artworks’ relation to the viewer. His use of life-size mirrors encompasses surrounding elements and passersby through the medium of the works’ reflective surfaces.
Lavoro blurs the distinction between reality and myth, enticing the viewer into a space where what is fictional and what is not becomes confused. The physical ready-mades scattered around the room are juxtaposed with the contradictory flat 2D images, reminding the onlooker of the depth and presence of a sculpture; yet paradoxically, the seemingly flat surfaces of the images have the essence of a painting or photograph – a more traditional, aesthetic art form.
Bright red safety cordons are depicted along with a saturated orange netting that reads: ‘vietato l’ingresso al non addetti al lavori’, meaning ‘public forbidden to enter’. The sign serves as an oxymoron, as in order to comprehend these instructions, you must be in close enough proximity to read them, consequently being forced to metaphorically enter the work in which the sign is printed, due to its reflective properties. The irony associated with this piece adds a subtle satire to the show, hinting that Pistoletto’s take on contemporary life can be regarded with a jolt of humor and good will.
In a sense, Lavoro does not serve as a work of art until it has been completed with visitor’s interaction. The collection is timeless as it is unable to truly be accurately recorded — and therefore preserved — as each recording is held in a moment in time which is not true of the entirety of the exhibition. It is this timeless perplexity which gives the series its conceptual depth and humble beauty.