London’s Serpentine Gallery is currently showing the work of renowned Italian Arte Povera artist Michelangelo Pistoletto in The Mirror of Judgement (ends 17 September), which consumes the entire gallery space in a site-specific, space altering installation. This exhibition uses the idea of space, our relationship to it and movements through it, as its subject.
In 1967 the Italian critic Germano Celant coined the term Arte Povera, meaning ‘poor art’. Arte Povera artists used everyday, natural and fragile materials to explore the relationship between art and life. Form and material were engaged in a celebration of a more rural, pre-industrial and non-materialized world, which resulted in artworks that were simultaneously playful yet serious, exaggerated yet intensely real.
Pistoletto has installed a labyrinthine arrangement of rolls of loosely folded, intertwining corrugated card through the galleries, which directs the visitors’ paths and engages them with the space. The installation asks that you think about the building’s original architecture and the viewer, in turn, becomes an intrinsic part of the installation as they meander through its passageways and turn the exhibition into a personal experience. His economy of materials evokes a relationship between the natural and unnatural worlds; a series of mirrors situated around the installation reflect their surroundings and the viewers, linking art and life together.
Meanwhile, four hidden sculptures representing the four major world religions are tucked around the exhibition: a prayer mat, a statue of Buddha, a prie-dieu, and arched mirrors representing the Torah. All are united by the labyrinthine passageways and are reflected back out by the mirrors. His work The Third Passage (2004), found in the central room, is composed of a large mirrored obelisk flanked by three floating ovals. Representing the Earthly combined with the Artificial, this was Pisoletto’s symbol for an imagined and ideal new level of human civilization.
These conceptual spaces invite the viewers to choose their own paths around the exhibition, to face themselves and engage in an act of self-perception and meditation that Pistoletto believes is intrinsic to the process of judgment. Combining the human and the natural, his works seek your participation and reflect judgment back on us in a potentially socially mobilizing way; he wanted his art to be socially conscious, to enact a process of self-scrutiny that inspires social change, both on an individual and collective level. It is, he says, ‘a winding and unforeseeable road that leads us to the place of revelation, of knowledge’.
Head to Bareface Magazine for the original review of Michelangelo Pistoletto and Peter Zumthor at the Serpentine Gallery.