GILARDI Piero (1942)
Piero Gilardi is an Italian plastic artist born in 1942 in Turin where he lives and works. His career launched in 1963 with the exhibition Macchine per il futuro (Machines for the future) in Turin, an anti-aesthetic installation of Neo-Dadaist inspiration. From 1965, he made himself known by his ‘nature carpets’ in polyurethane foam, relief sculptures that are hung on the wall or placed on the ground, each of which reproduces a natural ground or environment with striking attention to realistic detail. Their playful dimension is quickly surpassed by a critique of consumerism, its increasingly artificial lifestyle, and its source of various pollutants. Gilardi affirmed that it is after having seen a river carrying all kinds of trash that he felt the desire to create ‘a small piece of river that is clean and comfortable.’
Gilardi joined other Italian artists to present at Arte Abitabile (Art Habitable) in Turin in June 1966, an exhibition that responded to American Minimal Art, which was recently discovered and represented particularly by Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd. Despite adopting the extreme formal simplicity of Minimal Art, the Italian artists refused cold objectivity in favor of a more subjective sensitivity. In June 1967, an exhibition in Rome presented various works to act as a ‘mediation’ between nature and the public.
It is in September of the same year that so-called Arte Povera is born, the title of a Genoan exhibition organised by art critic Germano Celant, who published in December in Flash Art, an American art review, the manifesto of this new trend. For the proponents of Arte Povera, it is not a movement – because each artist sought to conserve his total independence – and it is more like a behaviour: the struggle to defy consumerist culture. This doubly revolutionary attitude is reflected in the artistic process, as seen by the importance given to the creator’s practice and not to the finished object: it is thus an elusive art. Often referring to nature, this art contributes to the reflection on the confrontation between nature and culture, while the notion of poverty applies to the technical means employed by the artist and not to the thought that leads to the object’s realisation. Arte Povera can further be understood within the context of the rebellious atmosphere that prevailed in Europe in the late 1960s; so too does it protest against the domination of American art on the market.
With his series of ‘nature carpets’ begun in the middle of the 1960s and shortly thereafter exhibited in Milan, Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and New York, Piero Gilardi advocated for an art bearing emotions and conceived for the domestic space, in order to reconcile nature and daily human life, the individual and his or her environment: ‘In realising the first ‘nature carpet’, I borrowed from Claes Oldenburg his poetic sense of softness, but for me, it is the rubber foam, above all, that functions to accommodate and interact with the body.’
In 1968, Piero Gilardi stopped creating works of art destined for the market, in favour of: political militant actions; the New Left; and culture – to defend collective and spontaneous creativity.
He returned to artistic production in the 1980s and published Dall’arte alla vita, dalla vita all’arte – which recounts his artistic, political, and personal journey through the revolutionary landscape of the previous decade – and became in 1987 President of the association Ars Technica, in association with the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, which brought together scientists, philosophers, and artists to foster a relationship between art and new technologies. In line with his second book Not For Sale – Alla ricerca dell’arte relazionale 1982-2000, Piero Gilardi took advantage of this consortium in many of his recent works which offer an interaction between the work of art and the viewer: his installation Pulsations permits a spectator of the work to visualise his or her heartbeat, whilst Shared Emotion creates a computer-generated experience shared between two visitors.
Piero Gilardi’s pioneering art practice and progressive political, ecological, and social approach was celebrated in 2008 by the founding of the Park of Living Art in Turin, dedicated to Gilardi.
Piero Gilardi is well represented particularly in Italy at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; in France at Centre Pompidou, FNAC and FRAC; in Sweden at Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and in Mexico at Museo Tamayo; and in the USA at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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Art works from GILARDI Piero
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