Simon Lee Gallery‘s exhibition is dedicated to one of the most successful Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, a founding member of the Arte Povera movement. Arte Povera rejected standards of artistic classification, seeking new approaches to making art and aiming to create a space for evaluation of the viewers’ responses and the art object itself. Pistoletto’s practice is profoundly driven by the belief that creative energy is linked not to the artist as a singular entity but as an extraordinary force capable of impacting every aspect of society. The role of the artist is dedicated to creating interaction between all spheres of human activity that make up society.
Michelangelo Pistoletto has been making his Mirror Paintings for almost fifty years documenting the world that he sees and lives in.
Mirror Paintings directly include the viewer and real time in the work, and open up perspective, reversing the Renaissance perspective that had been closed by the twentieth-century avant-gardes.
They are diaristic, time-based works incorporating not only the history of photography in the period he has been making them but also the history of clothing, artefacts, manners and mores. As time passes so the images he presents on the surface of the mirror become increasingly like relics reminding the viewer of his own mortality and of times past.
The Mirror Paintings are the foundation of his subsequent artistic output and theoretical thought.
While the mirror is instrumental to Pistoletto’s pursuit of imaginative, boundary breaking means of diversifying the nature and function of art within our social fabric, the human figure also acts as a motif for research into the objective identity of existence and spiritual need in the dynamics of everyday life. Figures are shown obliquely or from behind, addressing us if at all, indirectly and regarding us from deep within the mirror. Suggestive at times of narrative plot, solitude and human fragility, the work reflects shifting planes of reality and time and daily life on an individual level.
This exhibition is unique in its presentation of the same single figure, shown repeatedly as she circles us around the room. With withdrawn body language and a pensive demeanour, the woman turns away from us or toward our own image, sometimes appearing to be walking not just out of the frame but passing into the void. Toying with roles of perspective and identification, Pistoletto welcomes an evaluation of personal identity, actively charging the act of self reflection and demanding a response from the viewer.
Time based and fluid, interaction with the works change depending on the individual viewer’s engagement, becoming less about fixed imagery than possibilities for experience. The reflective surface of the paintings pulls the viewer and surrounding space into the work, altering the fiction of the painted image as a frozen moment. An ardent advocate of the performative in art, Pistoletto’s work emphasizes interactivity, spontaneity, the multiplicity of imaginative worlds, and an active relationship to artwork as a sculpture or painting to the immediate environment. Reflecting the surroundings and the viewer as part of the image breaks down traditional notions of figurative art in an ever changing spectacle, combining material form, pictorial space and gesture. This performative, ephemeral alliance between setting and artwork, presents situations, tensions and structures that encourages encounter between viewer and object.
Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933, Biella) has exhibited extensively over the past 50 years across Europe and the USA, including a retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art ‘From One to Many 1956-1974’ (2010) which travelled to MAXXI, Rome, the ‘The Mirror of Judgement’ at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2011) and Année un- le paradis sur terre, Musée du Louvre, Paris (2013). His work has been included in major international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale on eleven separate occasions, and four iterations of Documenta and can be found in many public collections, among them Tate Britain, London, Guggenheim Museum, New York, MOMA, New York, Museo d´arte contemporanea, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, MACBA, Barcelona and MuHKa, Antwerp.