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Museum to Present Major Survey Devoted to Italian Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto
A visitor looks at the installation by Italy's artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. AP Photo/Heribert Proepper.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- In the fall of 2010, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present a major exhibition devoted to the work of Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933) in the Dorrance Galleries for Special Exhibitions. Widely recognized as a key figure in the development of Italian art in the 1950s and 1960s and a founding member of the Arte Povera movement, Pistoletto has also gained increasing recognition in this country as an important influence on a younger generation of artists involved with the participatory practices that have become increasingly prevalent in contemporary art during the past two decades. The first major survey of works by Pistoletto in the United States in more than twenty years, this exhibition will place his art in the context of the cultural transformation of Western Europe that occurred after World War II and relate his work to developments in Italian and American art since the 1960s, including Pop Art, Minimalism, Arte Povera and Conceptual Art. Drawn from public and private collections in Europe and the United States, it will include some 100 works, many of which have never been exhibited in this country.

Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-74 is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome. In addition, Michelangelo Pistoletto: Cittadellarte, an interactive installation that explores the work of Pistoletto’s interdisciplinary center for art and culture located in Biella, Italy, will be on view in the Museum’s Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries. As both an exhibition space and an educational platform, Cittadellarte will be animated by a stimulating program designed by the Museum’s Department of Education in close collaboration with the artist and the staff of Cittadellarte.

“We are fortunate to be able to present a comprehensive survey of the work that Pistoletto created during a period of time when he was at the very forefront of contemporary artistic practice,” said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Museum. “This will be a major opportunity for American audiences to examine the nature and broad significance of Pistoletto’s many contributions to the art of our time, including his current focus on community participation as manifested in the ongoing project that he has titled Cittadellarte. We are also delighted to be able to collaborate with our colleagues at MAXXI in Rome, to which From One to Many will travel following its showing in Philadelphia.”

Taking Pistoletto’s first self-portraits as a point of departure, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-74 will examine the artist’s revelatory journey from his rigorous examination of self-representation in the mid-1950s through his engagement with creative collaborative actions during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pistoletto’s extraordinary self-portraits of the 1950s, painted in Turin where he worked at the beginning of his career, demonstrate an incisive exploration of the tension between the individual human figure and the anonymous spectator. In these works he began to use increasingly reflective surfaces, a direction that ultimately led to the production of the first of his Quadri specchianti (Mirror Paintings) in 1962. Pistoletto created his Quadri specchianti by attaching figures—which he had hand-painted on tissue paper—to the mirrored surfaces of polished stainless steel panels. By doing so, the artist incorporated the viewer’s reflected image, making this interactive and figurative relationship fundamental to the experience of his work. An extensive selection of Mirror Paintings dating from 1962 to 1974 will enable visitors to trace the evolution of the artist’s technique and to map the sociopolitical changes that occurred in Italy during that period, which are clearly identifiable in Pistoletto’s progressive choice of subject matter.

The exhibition will also include sections devoted to Pistoletto’s Plexiglas works from 1964 that clearly prefigure Conceptualism, his Stracci (Rags) sculptures of the late-1960s and early-1970s that demonstrate his seminal contribution to the development of Arte Povera, and interactive documentation of the performance work that he produced with his Lo Zoo group from 1968 to 1970. A centerpiece of the show will be Pistoletto’s extraordinary Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects), a group of disparate sculptural objects that he created between 1965 and 1966. With the Minus Objects, Pistoletto tests and questions Minimalism’s emphasis on seriality and non-compositionality by creating works characterized by diversity and by drawing inspiration from fields as varied as artisanship, architecture, design, and popular culture. As with the rest of Pistoletto’s work, the connecting factor in his Minus Objects is a precise use of contingency, the artist’s knowledge and love of materials, and a passionate emphasis on singularity and difference.

In the Museum’s Dorrance Galleries, the exhibition will place these bodies of work in close dialogue with each other. “The exhibition in Philadelphia will progress chronologically, allowing the visitors to understand and situate Pistoletto’s works in relation to the profound and swift transformation of the Italian context in which he was working,” said Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art. “Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings will punctuate other series throughout the exhibition—such as the Minus Objects and the Rags—to elucidate Pistoletto’s clear artistic evolution and the impact of the cultural and political milieu on his practice.”

Philadelphia Museum of Art | Michelangelo Pistoletto | Timothy Rub |

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August 10, 2010

Museum to Present Major Survey Devoted to Italian Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto

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