Born in 1933 in Biella, Italy, Pistoletto is now 79. The Italian artist started working in his father’s studio, who was a painter and restorer, at the age of fourteen. Michelangelo went on to attend Armando Testa’s advertising design school and began exhibiting his work in 1955. Since then, he has seen an extremely rich and successful career as an artist. He also holds an honorary degree from Turin University in Political Science, which he obtained in March 2004.
Pistoletto’s “Man with the Yellow Pants” was on display at MoMA last winter and was one of the few works to stay etched in my mind. I highly recommend reading the blurbs written alongside his work. They give great insight into the inspiration and implications of Pistoletto’s work, showing the creative and original thinker he is.
“Man with the Yellow Pants” is one of Pistoletto’s Mirror Painting pieces.
“The Mirror Paintings are the foundation of Pistoletto’s oeuvre—both of the artworks he makes and of his theoretical reflection in which he constantly returns to them to study their meaning in depth and to develop their implications. The essential characteristics the artist identifies in them, are: the dimension of time (not just represented, but presented in reality); the inclusion in the work of the viewer and his/her surroundings (which make “the self-portrait of the world”); the joining of couples of opposite polarity (static/dynamic, surface/depth, absolute/relative, etc.), constituted and activated by the interaction between the photographic image and what goes on in the virtual space generated by the reflecting surface; the placement of the mirror paintings no longer at window height, as paintings are traditionally hung, but on the floor (which creates a passage through which the space in which they are shown continues in the virtual space of the work, a door that opens between art and life).”
Pistoletto’s work using plexiglass followed soon after. It is described as “a first declaration of the ‘conceptuality’ of art.”
In his page-long presentation for this series, Pistoletto wrote, “At the present time it is easy to play on the identity beteewn reality-object and the art-object. A ‘thing’ is not art: but the idea expressed by the same ‘thing’ may be.” He explained, “For me at this time the ‘thing’ is the structure of figurative expression, which I have accepted as reality. The physical invasion of the picture in the real environment (bringing with the representation of the mirror) gives me the chance to introduce myself among the broken-down elements of figuration.”
Most recently, Pistoletto’s “Mirror of Judgement,” which is not listed on his official site, was on display last year at the Serpentine Gallery from July 12 – Semptember 17. It incorporated the symbol he created in 2003, The Third Paradise, or “The New Infinity Sign.”
He describes the symbol as “the fusion between the first and second paradise,” and explains its social implications by writing its idea “is to lead artifice—that is, science, technology, art, culture and political life—back to the Earth, while engaging in the reestablishment of common principles and ethical behavior, for on these the actual success of the project depends.”
He wrote a book about the symbol, and for those who understand Italian, recently gave a TED talk on it.
If you find a transcription or a version of the video with translated subtitles, please share by commenting!