New York is rich in Arte Povera, from the pandemic-era works of Pier Paolo Calzolari to the nature-inspired rugs of Piero Gilardi

When Marianne Boesky decided to give Pier Paolo Calzolari his first New York exhibition in 25 years in 2012, she was determined to reintroduce the understated maestro of Arte Povera across the pond with a grand presentation. . So much so that Boesky called on Pace Gallery’s Marc Glimcher to punch holes in the walls between the two galleries for a sprawling joint exhibition offering an in-depth look at the artist’s material-rich practice in sculpture, painting and film. Boesky recently opened Calzolari’s first exhibition in New York in five years at his eponymous gallery with a body of work the Lisbon-based Italian began creating just before the pandemic, as well as historic paintings by his retrospective at the Madre Museum in Naples in 2019.

Title Paint like a butterfly (until April 23), the exhibition celebrates the 79-year-old artist’s signature materials: egg tempera, oil pastel, grassa tempera and salt as well as a multitude of everyday objects integrated poetically on wooden panels. As is typical of Arte Povera – the group of like-minded, material-driven artists from post-industrial Italy that blew the European art scene in the 1960s and 1970s – much of the Calzolari’s work features curious, almost theatrical uses of mundane materials in conversation. with more raw accents, such as shells, feathers, dress or flowers associated with steel and iron in this show.

Calzolari came into Boesky’s orbit through another artist she represents, Jay Heikes, who once told her about Calzolari’s works over lunch. The name was familiar, Boesky says, but she found no substantial English text about him and eventually wrote a letter to the artist. Their first meeting was a ten-hour studio visit to his Lisbon studio, Boesky says, but she still had to hunt him down for the performance – “Actually, I still have to hunt him down for a new show because he won’t let go. not work easily.

Critical and commercial response to their first collaboration was fueled by Calzolari’s key role in Arte Povera and his reputation as a prolific but reluctant artist. “People have asked me how I would price his work without a lot of auction record,” Boesky says. “I had to remind people that he is steeped in art history and give collectors some confidence that this is an artist who has worked diligently for a very, very long time.” Calzolari himself wasn’t willing to start low either and wanted the prices for his work to reflect his commitment and stature, “so we left the prices as he wished and let people come to work knowing that it was not necessarily a question of the market or the validation of others, but rather the value of the power of art”.

Calzolari’s show isn’t the only proof of Arte Povera’s enduring power in New York this season. Another member of the movement, Piero Gilardi, is the subject of a major upcoming investigation at the Magazzino Italian Art Center in Cold Spring, New York. The artist’s first museum exhibition in the United States, Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura (May 7, 2022-January 9, 2023), was co-curated by curator Elena Re and Magazzino director Vittorio Calabrese and covers the work of the Turin-based artist from 1964 to two years ago, with a focus on on the titular polyurethane rugs of the 1960s. Painted in bright colors, the rugs are heavy reimaginings of nature scenes rendered in a highly industrial material with a characteristic dose of humor inherent in the emphasis of Arte Povera on the fine line between art and everyday life.

“There was no industrial aspect to his process, but Gilardi’s is more of a craftsmanship, with each piece being put together one by one,” says Calabrese, who notes the democratic aspect of the work. “He actually cut up pieces of carpet and sold them by the yard.” Although Gilardi is less recognized in the United States than the great names of the movement like Giuseppe Penone or Michelangelo Pistoletto, he often traveled to New York in the 1960s as a reporter for flash-art, accommodation at the Chelsea Hotel. He also exhibited alongside many key members of the movement at the influential Sonnabend Gallery and the Fischbach Gallery, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1967. The same year, back in Italy, he modeled for the one of Pistoletto’s signature mirror works, Gilardi Seated. “He was a big part of inspiring everyone to really think of them as a band,” Calabrese says. “With this show, we investigate him as a critical figure but also his story as a person as he turns 80 this year.”

Two show gems, both from 1967, are portable work Vestito-Natura Bettulethat Gilardi created for a happening at the legendary Turin nightclub Piper, and Sassy (The Rocks), a set of rock-style painted polyurethane foam chairs borrowed from the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The Italian industrial design firm Gufram, with whom the artist collaborated on the industrial technique of manufacturing rock-shaped seats, still uses the same method to produce furniture.

Along with discovering lesser-known members of the movement in Chelsea and Cold Spring, fans can delve into another collaborative project between Arte Povera and design making at the Frick Collection’s temporary Madison Avenue outpost. . One-piece installation Propaganda: Giuseppe Penone at Sèvres (until August 28) includes 11 discs created by Penone in collaboration with French porcelain manufacturer Sèvres. Finished with a metal oxide paint, the white discs contrast the industrial, tactile surfaces characteristic of the movement with the polished finish of the porcelain. The show is an elegant side dish in this season’s celebration of Arte Povera’s offerings in and around the city.

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