Piero Gilardi on display in Vanabbe

After a long break, caused partly by summer holidays, but mostly by some personal turbulences on our side, Summ()n is back to work – or at least back to active blogging! There are few stories due, about past project, and some future plans, and as always, there will be stories about everything interesting and future-related – and what’s not related to the future?

Well, Piero Gilardi and his Nature Carpets (Tappeti Natura) might seem to be not exactly relevant to future – created in the 1960s, by the artist who doesn’t even have an English-language page on Wikipedia… What can they tell us, now, in the C21? Yet the exhibition in the Eindhoven-based Vanabbe Museum brings these works, and the artist’s thinking behind them right in the middle of our context: of the immersed in crisis Europe, and of the debates about art and its role in – if not resolving, then at least addressing the problems we are facing with.

At least that what Charles Esche, director of the museum, was trying to convince in the public gathered at the opening of the solo exhibition of Piero Gilardi, an Italian artist who is often called a ‘founding father’ of arte povera movement, and whom the curator of the exhibition, Diana Franssen, described as the “pivotal figure in the birth of the movement that was to fundamentally change European art in the middle of 1960s”:

I put a few pictures from the show behind the cut, together with some explanations and comments:

This is how Gilardi looked in 1966:

And this is how his works of that time looked:

Made of (relatively) cheap polyurethane, large and bright, they looked (and I guess, been felt) more like carpets, not paintings. Few of those can be seen (though not touched!) in the exhibition, too:

However bright and colorful, these works are not just mooi (Dutch word for ‘nice’) – although many visitors readily used this word to describe them; they are also absurd and provocative.  To use the latest technology (synthetic material in this case), often produced at the expense of ‘nature’ to hyper-realistically represent this very nature – what a surreal dawn of postmodern pop-art!

The problem (the artist’s problem, that is) that his provocation, directed against the ‘establishments’ of various sort, was quickly commoditized and commercialized, in form of fashion, design, and a general aesthetical trend. I can not say with any certainty, but this could be the reason whey Piero Gilardi eventually left art scene and moved to political and protest activities of all sort:

To cut the story short, he moved back, too. From the middle of the 1980s he was involved in a number of art projects, increasingly using new technologies and new forms of interaction of art-work and the art-user, so to speak, bringing the aspects of co-creation and co-production into his work. Even this exhibition is called Samen Werken, literally – Working Together. There are not so many truly collaborative art works on display, but one can see the general development in this direction, even if symbolic, like in his latest work Ipogea (2011):

As explained, “The volcano of polyurethane is a concretization of an experience Gilardi had when he paid a visit to the Grotta de Bossea in the Ligurian Alps (Italy). When Gilardi listened to the loud underground flow of the river in the cave, he felt he was standing before a hidden source of bio-energy.”

“This event gave him the idea to create an image, in which the visitor by experiencing sound and light effect can escape the noisy schizophrenia of everyday life.” I didn’t dare to experience the escape from “noisy schizophrenia” myself; may be some other time.

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