Arte Povera - Gallery 1

Explore works by Alighiero Boetti, Giuseppe Penone, Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Pier Paolo Calzolari.

By Magazzino Italian Art

Pants (1987) by Giuseppe PenoneMagazzino Italian Art

Since the late 1960s, Giuseppe Penone has investigated the relationship between nature and the human body. Inspired by his childhood in Italy’s Maritime Alps, Penone often uses natural materials, especially tree trunks.

In this work, Penone used the practice of frottage or rubbing to transfer the form of a tree trunk onto a pair of linen trousers. Here, the pattern on the pant leg is an index of the artist’s process and of the natural form of the tree trunk in the work.

The trace makes visible the part of the trunk that is now covered by the pant leg and remains otherwise invisible to viewers. Through the juxtaposition of the linen trousers, which evoke a body in absentia, and the trunk (or body) of a tree, Penone’s work invites viewers to contemplate the relationship between nature and the body and between visibility and invisibility.

The iron grid that supports the work recalls the grid’s use in the history of modernist abstraction as a non-hierarchical compositional strategy. The grid also recalls latticework that supports the growth of plant life. Pantaloni exemplifies Arte Povera’s interest in nature and the body and in the integration of art and life.

Italy on the Pole and Italy at Auction (1994) by Luciano FabroMagazzino Italian Art

Since 1968, Luciano Fabro has extensively focused on the cartographic shape of Italy in his Italia series, which comprises sculptural works based on the familiar “boot” of the Italian peninsula and its surrounding islands.

Italia all’asta depicts two silhouettes of Italy: one upright and the other flipped upside down, arranged so that the north and south ends of the country meet. The islands of Sardinia and Sicily are layered on top of the mainland, uniting all three into one landmass. This fragmented map represents a series of tensions: between northern and southern Italy, mainland and islands, regional and national identities, and between the cartographic image of Italy and the symbol of nationhood it evokes.

In Italian the word asta has two meanings: “pole” and “auction.” Made during the early 1990s, a period of economic and political upheaval in Italy, the work evokes the value associated with Italian products, culture, and identity in a global context.

Everything (1988) by Alighiero BoettiMagazzino Italian Art

The Tutto series is among the last group of works conceived by Boetti. The series expresses a recurring theme in the artist’s career: the duality of order and disorder.

Upon closer inspection, the colorful cacophony of forms depicted in the embroidery reveals a wide range of images, signs, and symbols. As in many of Boetti’s works, these forms invite the viewer to become visually involved in the work of art.

The artist explained the collaborative process of creation for Tutto: “I asked my assistants to draw everything, every possible shape, abstract or figurative, and to amalgamate them until the paper sheet was saturated. Then I took the drawing to Afghanistan to get it embroidered...The different colors of each shape are chosen by the women. In order to avoid establishing any hierarchy among the colors, I use them all. My concern is to avoid making choices according to my taste and to invent systems that they will then choose on my behalf.”

Two Nudes Descending the Staircase Two Nudes Descending the Staircase (1987) by Luciano FabroMagazzino Italian Art

In the 1980s, Luciano Fabro taught at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and paid special attention to art history in his practice.

Due nudi che scendono le scale is part of a group of works in which the artist deliberately referenced various artistic sources. The title of the work refers to Marcel Duchamp’s groundbreaking painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912). Duchamp rendered a body in motion through fragmentary geometric planes and curved lines.

Fabro reinterpreted it by transferring the painted forms into a sculptural installation. Two rectangular and slightly curved pieces of beautifully polished marble recall the movement of two figures descending a set of stairs. By translating conceptual devices of painting into simple forms in space, Fabro analyzed the physical conditions that inform sculpture as a composition of volumes in space.

Untitled (I Want To Let You Know That I Do Not Want Moments of Knowledge) (1969) by Pier Paolo CalzolariMagazzino Italian Art

Throughout his career, Pier Paolo Calzolari has explored materials and processes associated with transformation. His poetic works often incorporate language, and the artist frequently uses natural materials such as frost and salt (both products of processes of crystallization) in place of conventional artistic media.

This early work belongs to a series the artist made using salt, lead, and textual elements. The white field seems to crystallize across its surface, offering a different version of the monochrome (single-color painting). The use of salt aligns with Calzolari’s life-long pursuit of creating a pure white color with natural materials.

The poetic script on the work’s surface is written in crushed tobacco leaves. Surrounded by salt, the text appears to come into view and disappear at once, paralleling the work’s emphasis on process. The title of the work comes from Calzolari’s now iconic text, “La casa ideale” (The Ideal House; 1968).

Written as a series of statements that the artist “would like to let you know,” the text articulated Calzolari’s desire for horizontality, democracy, and alchemy. Together, the layer of salt, lead sheet, and illegible yet poetic script evoke the artist’s ideas of vitality and expansion.

Newspaper Sphere (1966) by Michelangelo PistolettoMagazzino Italian Art

Michelangelo Pistoletto created the first Sfera di giornali in 1966 as part of his Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects, 1965–1966), a heterogeneous series of sculptural objects composed of everyday, inexpensive, or otherwise readily available materials.

At the time, Pistoletto was best known for his quadri specchianti (mirror paintings): the highly polished stainless steel panels he collaged and later silkscreened with life-size cutouts of everyday subjects and objects. The Minus Objects testified to the artist’s view of time as a series of unrepeatable moments.

Composed of newspapers that have been pressed together, the spheres were conceived as physical articulations of the dynamic and constantly changing events of everyday life. At the end of 1967, Pistoletto repurposed the sphere; he removed it from the studio and rolled it between three galleries in Turin, entitling the action Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture).

Since 1967, Walking Sculpture has been reenacted several times around the world. The performance held in Cold Spring, New York in November 2017 celebrated Magazzino’s inaugural year. This sphere is made of local newspapers surrounding that date.

Magazzino is honored and grateful for the generous donation of this work by the artist.

The Cage (1962) by Michelangelo PistolettoMagazzino Italian Art

Michelangelo Pistoletto composed his first quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) in 1962. In 1974, in the midst of a period of sociopolitical unrest in Italy known as the years of lead, Pistoletto made a subset of mirror paintings, to which this work belongs, focusing on themes of detention, persecution, and state power.

The motif of the cage first appeared in Pistoletto’s practice in the late 1960s, during his work with his street theater and performance group Lo Zoo (The Zoo). “The Zoo,” the group wrote, “means those who are on the other side of the bars.” The motif evoked ideas of the late 1960s counterculture that criticized authoritarianism and capitalist culture.

In 1974 at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and then again at the Galleria Multipli in Turin in 1975, Pistoletto covered the entire exhibition space with 29 mirror paintings, each of them depicting an identical section of iron bars. Seen together, these works created a phenomenological effect for viewers who found themselves caged in twice: in the form of their reflected selves, detained in the mirror, and in their physical presence in the gallery, surrounded by bars.

Art International (Portrait of Maximilian von Stein) Art International (Portrait of Maximilian von Stein) (1962) by Michelangelo PistolettoMagazzino Italian Art

Pistoletto’s quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) represent an effort to go beyond the traditional practice of painting. The artist places his images on highly polished steel panels, purchased at local industrial supply stores, in an attempt to merge the real and virtual.

In these works, viewers see their own reflections registered alongside Pistoletto’s quasi-photographic static figures that the artist collaged on the panel. Viewers thus find themselves crossing into the conventional space of figuration.

Art International (Ritratto di Maximilian von Stein) depicts the son of the visionary gallerist Margherita Stein reading Art International, one of the most influential international art magazines of the 1960s. The piece shows the technique that the artist perfected in the 1960s to achieve objectivity in his quasi-photographic representations. Pistoletto began by selecting the figure from a photograph, enlarging it to life-size, and tracing its outline from the projected enlargement. He then cut out and hand- painted the figure after he affixed the tissue paper to the steel surface.

Map (1983) by Alighiero BoettiMagazzino Italian Art

Alighiero Boetti began producing the Mappe (Maps) series in 1971 after his first trip to Afghanistan. Struck by embroidery work in Kabul, he outsourced the embroidery for his series to local women with whom he collaborated.

The completed work questions conventional authorship. According to Boetti, “For the finished work, I myself did nothing in the sense that the work is as it is (I didn’t draw it) and the national flags are as they are (I didn’t design them). In short, I did absolutely nothing. What emerges from the work is the concept.”

The top and bottom borders in Italian contain the signature, place, year of execution, and wordplay that is typical of the artist: “Lasciare il certo per l’incerto e viceversa e io” (Leave the certain for the uncertain and vice versa and I).

On the side borders, texts in Farsi—selected by Afghan men with whom Boetti also collaborated—read: “I know of seas that embrace land” (left) and “I knew of seas that embraced land” (right). In the wake of Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the shift from present to past tense seems melancholic. Boetti subsequently shifted production of the embroidered maps to Peshawar (Pakistan).

What Is To Be Done What Is To Be Done (1968) by Mario MerzMagazzino Italian Art

In Mario Merz’s work, everyday objects and natural materials are placed alongside one another in unusual ways that alter both the physical composition and visual appearance of objects.

In Che fare? an aluminum cooking pan is filled with beeswax. A neon sign runs across it in the form of the text that gives the work its title. The illuminated tubing, based on the artist’s own handwriting, forms a continuous script that translates to “What is to be done?"

Made during the tumultuous years surrounding 1968 and the associated Italian “hot autumn” of 1969, the phrase originated in mid-19th-century pre-Soviet Russian literature, in the subversive work of Nikolaj G. Cernysevskij. The phrase was concretized as a platform for socialist revolution when Vladimir Lenin used it in a pamphlet in 1902 as a call to arms prior to the Russian Revolution.

The phrase was adopted with great enthusiasm in 1960s Italy. For Merz, the maxim underwent a change in the work from its political origins to an existential question. “What is to be done?” refers generally to the responsibility of the new artistic generation to question artistic practice in the 1960s.

Adam and Eve Adam and Eve (1962) by Michelangelo PistolettoMagazzino Italian Art

Michelangelo Pistoletto made his first quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) in 1962, when he began collaging highly polished stainless steel panels with life-size cutouts of figures and objects.

The artist provides a date range for each mirror painting: from the year of his conceptualization of the mirror paintings in 1962 through the actual year of realization of each work.

Since 1971 the artist has used the technique of silkscreen print as a process of reproduction that is impersonal but not completely mechanical. By doing so, the artist places his figures between the real space of display and the virtual space of the mirror. The viewer sees their own reflections registered alongside the figures of Pistoletto’s mirror paintings in an experience that connects art and life.

Adamo ed Eva depicts two nude figures on two panels. While the figures and dual panels evoke Judeo-Christian ideas about the origins of humankind, according to Pistoletto these works are meant to depict “the self-portrait of the world, open to the participation of everybody.”

Clino Clino (1966) by Alighiero BoettiMagazzino Italian Art

Clino—the name of Clino Trini Castelli, one of the artist’s close friends and brother of art critic Tommaso Trini— is a portrait. Clino was presented at Alighiero Boetti’s first solo exhibition at Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1967.

The process and materials in this work subvert expectations for portraiture and for artistic process as defined by technical mastery. The work consists of a monochrome wooden panel painted with industrial paint, upon which cork letters compose the name that makes up the work’s title. Clino also subverts expectations for a work of art as composed of fine art materials.

Here, industrial paint is applied with tools that do not allow the artist to leave any visible trace of his hand; the opaque, flat layers of standardized color do not create areas of represented shadows. The anti-gestural and anti- pictorial effect is typical of Boetti’s interest in reassessing traditional media such as painting. Boetti described this work as a “self-designed object.”

Luminous Panel (1966) by Alighiero BoettiMagazzino Italian Art

Pannello luminoso is an important early example of Alighiero Boetti’s exploration of artistic conventions in the mid-1960s through an engagement of design-inspired and commercial aesthetics. Here, Boetti engages the viewer in an exploration of perception: What appears to be a clear, simple form from afar is a more complicated structure upon closer inspection.

At the same time, the bright panel (in color and illumination) makes a number of historical and contemporary references. The wooden panel recalls the prominence of panel painting in the history of art, especially in the Renaissance, while the bright orange hue and electrical light system hidden inside the structure align with contemporary experiments in light art, technology, and design aesthetics.

The use of light is especially relevant; light is channeled into a specific place (the thin space that divides the frame from the panel). There, light seems to shift from an immaterial substance into material form. Pannello luminoso was shown in Boetti’s now iconic first solo exhibition at Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1967.

Untitled (1970) by Alighiero BoettiMagazzino Italian Art

Throughout his career, Alighiero Boetti was fascinated by mathematics, specifically with models of multiplication. Its sets of rules on which games are based were key elements of his practice, as exemplified in the Bollini (Stickers) series.

The series is based on a principle of symmetrical juxtaposition. The artist drew a square grid in ink on paper and placed colored stickers in each square such that the opposite sides of each square mirror each other. It was the intention of the artist to create various combinations, each one different from the next.

Viewers who look closely, however, will discover this is not always the case. He repeated the same simple action of placing stickers as regularly as he could, thus conceiving his practice as an exhausting game of patience.

Ephesus II (1986) by Luciano FabroMagazzino Italian Art

A horizontal slab of white Carrara marble weighing over 1,500 pounds is suspended by steel cables, exposing a fissure on one side of the stone. Efeso II is the second version of a work whose title refers to Ephesus: the ancient Roman and Hellenistic city in modern-day Turkey, where Luciano Fabro traveled.

Marble from Italy was chosen for its natural properties and use in classical art and architecture, which flourished in cities like Ephesus. The suspension of the marble confers a certain lightness to the heavy stone. The top face is highly polished and reflects light, mirroring the sky. The bottom surface is rough and untreated; it retains visible traces of its natural materiality.

The fissure on the side indicates a line connecting sky and land, air and earth. The work expresses Fabro’s interest in redefining the traditional tenets of sculpture, such as an exploration of nature and culture, lightness and weight, gravity and suspension.

The use of steel cables and disparate treatments of the stone remind us of archaeological excavation and construction past and present. Efeso II thus resonates with tensions between history and contemporaneity as well as cultural heritage and development.

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