Perched on a quiet bend of the Hudson’s east bank, Cold Spring, New York, is a far cry from Turin. On a recent Saturday afternoon, however, the town’s Main Street hosted an event originating in the Piedmont capital 50 years ago, along with its creator, present in the flesh. Michelangelo Pistoletto (b.1933) proved one of the most recognizable contributors to Germano Celant’s Arte Povera group, the 50th anniversary of which has witnessed a spate of retrospectives and commemorations this autumn. With the inauguration in June of Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring – a museum boasting notable works by Pistoletto and his contemporaries – the lessons of postwar aesthetics have gained a new prominence and relevance this side of the Atlantic.
Vital to Arte Povera in general, and to Pistoletto’s work in particular, was the notion of unmediated, phenomenological experience as the crux of the encounter with art, no longer beholden to the strictures of institutional propriety or temporality. Unconventional materials appealed as much to the senses as to aesthetic sensibility, bound up with a widespread dematerialization of art practices in the 1960s (amidst an increasingly tense political atmosphere). Moving between painting, sculpture, mixed media installations and street-side performance, Pistoletto’s activity both preceded and outlasted Arte Povera’s five-year incarnation, whether on his own or with the collective of artists called Lo Zoo (The Zoo). As evidenced by the numerous mirror paintings debuted at Luhring Augustine gallery this past week, his practice continues to evolve, even as it takes up certain recurring threads.
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