GALLERIA CONTINUA San Gimignano presents MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO | ETEL ADNAN
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Michelangelo Pistoletto - Frammenti di un metro cubo di specchio
2013, mirror, undimensioned
Opening: Saturday 21 September 2013, Via del Castello 11, 6pm-12 midnight
Until 7 January 2014, Monday–Saturday, 10am-1pm 2-7pm
Shortly after the end of the successful large-scale exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, Michelangelo Pistoletto is once again showing in Italy with a new project for the Galleria Continua: recent works, a site-specific installation conceived for the stalls area and a substantial number of new pieces realized specially for this exhibition, which draw on Cento mostre nel mese di ottobre (One Hundred Exhibitions in the Month of May). In what is a kind of recipe book of exhibitions and works, published by the Galleria Giorgio Persano in 1976 and containing 100 ideas for a similar number of shows, all conceived and described in the October of that year, the artist wrote: “These exhibitions are planned in the same way as the Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) of 1966, where every single element is the immediate result of a contingent need. The eventual full-scale execution, though it may seem to be at odds with the logic of the contingency, obeys the logic of the planning, which in my process occupies but one place in a hundred. Indeed, the last exhibition is reserved for the stimulus produced by actual presence on the spot. This truth is capable of absorbing, one by one, all the other 99 truths, except for that of the planning.”
The exhibition opens with a series of works from the Vortice (Vortex) cycle: organic or geometric forms cut into black and white mirrors and presented in gilt frames. Positive and negative, full and empty, light and dark lie in opposition to each other, conferring on these works a physical and metaphysical dimension. In Pistoletto’s work the mirror is an image of the world, of human beings and society as of cosmic space. The reflecting pictures form the foundations of the artist’s work, both of his subsequent output and artistic activity, and of the theoretical reflection to which he returns constantly in order to explore their meaning and to tease out the implications. Pistoletto produced his first Quadri Specchianti (Mirror Paintings) in 1962. In the show at San Gimignano are two new mirror paintings, images of people observed by the artist in the halls of the Louvre during the Année1 - Le Paradis sur Terre exhibition.
Mirrors also appear in some of the works realized from One Hundred Exhibitions in the Month of October – suspended from the ceiling and oscillating to create the effect of a swing, crossing a room supported by an artist’s easel, reflecting writing on the wall. The mirroring effect of the mica powder is also found in the restoration of the old paintings on display on the ground floor of the gallery.
La camera ardente (The Mortuary Chapel), described in the book as follows: “In the middle of the exhibition space stands a smaller room that can be taken in at a glance upon entering. This little room ought to be made of polystyrene of a thickness that allows light through. Inside this room is a lit candle. The entrance to this small room is opposite that of the gallery, which should be in darkness.”
In 2003 Pistoletto wrote the Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise) manifesto and designed the symbol, consisting of the reconfiguration of the mathematical sign for infinity. Inserted between the two opposite circles, which have the acquired meaning of nature and artifice, is a third circle representing the generative womb of the Third Paradise. For the artist, this symbol represents the shift away from the opposite pairs of nature and artifice, feminine and male, towards a new matrix of thought, in order to imagine other relations between humans and society, and likewise another economy of the world. In 2004 Pistoletto publicly announced the Third Paradise as the next phase in his work. From then on, for the artist and for Cittadellarte, the Third Paradise was to be the main line of inquiry of work conducted by weaving together a dense network of relations and collaborative projects with innumerable partners: individuals, associations, bodies and institutions, active not only in the art world but in the most varied sectors of society. Two themes addressed with particular commitment and regularity in the ambit of the Third Paradise are recycling and environmental sustainability. There is no copyright for this sign, the artist tells us – everyone can make it their own. As the photographs on display in the gallery testify, the Third Paradise has been the focus of a wide range of works in various places and with different materials: drawn on the sand, traced out on the ground on the island of San Servolo in Venice during the 2005 Biennale, built in recycled aluminium and coloured cardboard modules by some one hundred children this year in the Tuileries Garden in Paris, to give just a few examples. After having worked with jazz musician Enrico Rava in the context of Creative Collaboration, and, more recently, with Gianna Nannini, creating spaces where the Third Paradise has taken the form of a multimedia work in progress, Pistoletto perhaps has new interactions with music in mind with his realization, in the stalls area of the gallery’s cinema and theatre space, of the Third Paradise symbol with hundreds of cymbals of different diameters, profiles, thicknesses and forms.
Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella in 1933. In 1960 he had his first solo exhibition at the Galleria Galatea in Turin. In 1961-62 he produced his Quadri Specchianti (Mirror Paintings ), which included the viewer directly in the work. In 1965 and 1966 he produced a group of works entitled Oggetti in Meno (Minus Objects ), considered to be fundamental in the birth of Arte Povera. In 1967, with the formation of the Zoo group, he achieved the “creative collaboration” that he would then develop in the course of the following decades, bringing together and relating artists from different disciplines and sectors of society. Between 1975 and 1976 he created Le Stanze (The Rooms ) in Turin, the first in a series of complex works produced over the space of a year and called “continents of time”, such as Anno Bianco (White Year) of 1989 and Tartaruga Felice (Happy Tortoise ) of 1992. In 1978 he presented two fundamental lines of inquiry for his future work: Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio (Division and Multiplication of the Mirror) and L’arte assume la religione ( Art Takes On Religion ). In the 1990s, with Progetto Arte and with the establishment, in Biella, of Cittadellarte- Fondazione Pistoletto and the University of Ideas , he placed art into an active relationship with the various spheres of the social fabric in order to inspire and bring about a responsible transformation of society. In 2003 he was awarded the Golden Lion for Career Achievement at the Venice Biennale. In 2004 he received an honorary degree in Political Science from the University of Turin, and announced the most recent phase of his Third Paradise work. In 2007 he received the Wolf Foundation Prize in Arts in Jerusalem “for his constantly inventive career as an artist, educator and activist, whose restless intelligence has created prescient forms of art that contribute to fresh understanding of the world”. In 2011 he was artistic director of Evento 2011 in Bordeaux. In 2013 he had a solo show at the Louvre, entitled Année1 - Le Paradis sur Terre . Works by Pistoletto are held in the collections of many leading modern and contemporary art museums.
Opening: Saturday 21 September 2013, Via Arco dei Becci 1, 6pm–12 midnight
Until 9 November 2013, Monday–Saturday, 10am-1pm 2-7pm
Galleria Continua has the honour to present, in its Arco dei Becci exhibition space, the first solo exhibition in Italy of one of the most complex and complete figures in contemporary culture: Etel Adnan.
Poetess, novelist, essayist and visual artist, Adnan is a cosmopolitan woman. She was born in Beirut in 1925 to a Muslim Syrian father and a Christian Greek mother. Beirut and Damascus were the landscapes of her childhood, France and the United States the countries where she studied and works. Adnan is regarded as one of the most important representatives of the “Arab diaspora”, and a pioneer of the process of female emancipation. Her interest in visual art developed during the years of the Algerian war of independence, when writing in French had political implications which the artist, out of solidarity with the rebels, refused to embrace. Her first paintings date to 1958, at a time when Adnan had recently moved to the San Francisco of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Snyder, and was teaching philosophy at a Californian university.
One major source of inspiration for the artist’s work is Mount Tamalpais, the highest peak overlooking San Francisco Bay. Over the years she has expressed her love for this mountain by dedicating books and poems to it and depicting it repeatedly in her paintings. For Adnan, Mount Tamalpais is the synthesis of becoming and permanence, it is the representation of the universe, it is the experience that humans have of nature, and in this sense is the epiphany of the most profound self. In some notes published by Adnan on the occasion of her participation at dOCUMENTA (13), she wrote: “You might think that love of nature is harmless, but no love is harmless. It can compromise the whole of existence and indeed it does.”
In this exhibition the artist presents a series of new, small-format oil paintings on canvas, all produced this year. They are landscapes, but rather than simply depicting what the eye can see, they are a revelation of what lies behind visible appearance. There is no human presence, because Adnan is interested exclusively in representing the physical beauty of the universe, and the intense bond of love she has with it. The works are executed with great clarity and assurance, without hesitation or second thoughts. Her style is concise and almost austere, like her writing.
The colours chosen by the artist to represent rivers, seas, hills and mountains do not correspond exclusively to the modality with which Adnan perceives nature; the “reading” is not limited to a juxtaposition of colours, but instead is completed in the whole that these colours create and in the impression conveyed to the viewer. The artist asks: “Do colors have the power to break the Time barrier, and carry us into outer spaces, not only those made of miles and distances, but those of the accumulated experiences of life since its beginnings or unbeginning?”
In the essay “Beyond Borders: Etel Adnan’s Writing and Art”, Simone Fattal writes: “She worked the canvas like a sheet of paper, the canvas laid on the table, using a palette knife instead of a brush. She posed on it squares and masses, vivid bright stretches of color… Adnan started as a purely abstract painter, using large squares compactly juxtaposed or floating on a background, or else smaller squares composing a line either dividing the surface or also floating somewhere on the surface of the canvas. Among these hermetic squares, there was almost always a red one. It was as if from the red square that all the rest of the composition emerged. Around it the world – its lines of forces, the large picture – organized itself.”
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, in Lebanon, in 1925. After attending a Catholic convent run by French nuns in Beirut, she went to Paris in 1950 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne. Five years later she moved to the United States to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Harvard. From 1958 to 1972 she taught philosophy at the Dominican College of San Rafael in California. After returning to Lebanon in 1972, she worked as literary editor for the Beirut daily, L’Orient-Le Jour . She left the country in 1976. Adnan now divides her time between Paris and Sausalito, California.
In the decades following the publication of her first volume of poetry, Moonshots , Adnan published books in English and French, wrote texts for two documentaries by Jocelyn Saab about the civil war in Lebanon (broadcast in France, various other European countries and in Japan) and two theatre pieces, Comme un arbre de Noël (about the Gulf War) and L’actrice . She worked on a film about Calamity Jane in collaboration with Delphine Seyring, and a musical work with her “Love Poems”. Many of Adnan’s poems have been set to music, for example by Gavin Bryars (“Adnan Songbook”) and by Zad Moultaka (“Nepsis”). Other works, all translated into Italian, include Journey to Mount Tamalpais ; In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country ; a short but intense biography entitled “Growing Up to Be a Woman Writer in Lebanon”; The Arab Apocalypse ; and one of her most celebrated novels, Sitt Marie Rose . Set in the civil war in Lebanon, the book deals in dramatic terms with the issue of religious and political integralism and the role of women in Lebanese society. Winner of the France-Pays Arabes prize in 1977, it has been translated into more than 10 languages, and has become a classic of war literature.
The works of Etel Adnan are housed in private collections and in museums around the world, including the Royal Jordanian Museum, the Tunis Modern Art Museum, the Sursock Museum in Beirut, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the British Museum in London, the World Bank Collection in Washington D.C., and the National Museum for Women in the Arts, also in Washington D.C. In 2010 the artist took part in the Memory Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and in 2012 she showed at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel.
GALLERIA CONTINUA / San Gimignano
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