Galería Elvira González is pleased to announce the gallery’s first solo exhibition by the acclaimed Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, featuring a selection of eight large-format works from his Mirror Paintings suite. Made from sheets of mirror-finished stainless steel, they co-opt the exhibition space, reflecting it while at once including the viewer and inviting him to explore them with his own reflection.
Michelangelo Pistoletto’s early works were primarily focused in the investigation of self-portraiture, he soon shifted to what were to become his signature Mirror Paintings: works that include the beholder in real time while opening up the perspective. In fact, Pistoletto conceived them as a way of reversing the Renaissance perspective that had been foreclosed by the avant-gardes of the early 20th century. The artist himself described the Mirror Paintings as a redefinition of the concept of perspective which until then had meant a vision inwards towards the interior of the painting.
With his Mirror series Pistoletto documents “the world that he sees and lives in”, as pointed by Jeremy Lewison, curator and former Director of Collections at Tate in his essay Looking at Pistoletto / Looking at Myself. According to Lewison, Pistoletto’s pieces incorporate “not only the history of photography in the period he has been making them — he has proceeded from using glass negatives to Polaroid or digital images, from the hand painted to the screenprinted, from black and white to colour, from static to motion — but also the history of clothing, artefacts, manners and mores."
Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings have taken on a more critical and political slant over recent years, as the artist acknowledges in The Third Paradise, his manifesto from 2003. “We have to be more aware of ourselves as individuals belonging to a society which is global and at once local”, he says. “Humanity looks at itself through a rear-view mirror, as if it were scrutinizing everything it has done”. For Pistoletto the mirror is a metaphor of History that “shows us everything behind us and forces us to look at the space and time that stretches out behind our back”.
Michelangelo Pistoletto (Biella, 1933) started exhibiting his work in 1955 and had his first solo show in 1960, at Galleria Galatea in Turin. In his formative years in the 1960s, Pistoletto was one of the main forces behind Arte Povera. However, it was towards the end of the 1970s when he defined two major directions for his future work: Division and Multiplication of the Mirror and Art Takes On Religion.
Michelangelo Pistoletto’s first major show in Spain was held in 1983 at Palacio de Cristal in the Retiro park in Madrid, organised by Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Archivos and curated by Aurora García. Almost two decades later in 2000, MACBA (Museu d’art Contemporani de Barcelona) held a large survey show of his work. More recently, he has had exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in 2010, and the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2011, among others.
His works are in the world’s finest modern and contemporary art collections, including MOMA, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Beaubourg, Paris; Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Seoul; Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; MACBA, Barcelona; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rívoli; or Tate Modern, London. Pistoletto has participated in Documenta Kassel four times (1968, 1982, 1992 & 1997) and twelve times at the Venice Biennale (1966, 1968, 1976, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1993, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011), where he was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 2003.
From his outset, he has always been interested in exhibiting outside conventional circuits, and in creative collaborations between artists from different disciplines and social backgrounds. In the 1970s he set in motion one of the first experiments exploring this new field, exhibiting works in the rooms of an apartment rented out for one year and, later, with the Le Stanze project in Turin which consisted of a cycle of twelve consecutive exhibitions following one another throughout 1975 and 1976.
This interest led to the opening of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella in 1998, as a physical embodiment of the artist’s Progetto Arte Manifesto in which Pistoletto states a new role for the artist: art in direct interaction with all other areas of human activity within society. Cittadellarte operates as a laboratory that generates the creative energy needed to drive development processes in various fields of culture, art production, economy and politics.
In 2004 Michelangelo Pistoletto was granted an honorary degree in Political Science from the Turin University and in 2007 the Wolf Foundation awarded him its Arts Prize “for his constantly inventive career as an artist, educator and activist whose restless intelligence has created prescient forms of art that contribute to a fresh understanding of the world.”