Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura

May 7, 2022

Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura exhibition photo
Installation view of the exhibition Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura at Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, New York. Photos by Marco Anelli/Tommaso Sacconi.

Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura Opens at Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring, New York in May 2021.

Cold Spring, New York – Magazzino Italian Art is thrilled to unveil Piero Gilardi's works in the U.S. for the first time with the opening of Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura, an expansive exhibition dedicated to the series at the core of the Italian artist’s oeuvre. Gilardi: Tappeto-Natura (Nature-Carpet), on view from May 7, 2022 through January 9, 2023, seeks to recount and illuminate the experience of a pioneering artist who, at the height of the 1960s, opened a dialogue between Italy and the United States, and who remains committed to investing in the formation of an international artistic community that embodies the tie between art and life.

Up through the mid-1900s, very little societal dialogue about environmental issues existed. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, is widely acknowledged as the precursory manifesto to the modern day environmental movement, as it described the ecological connections between human society and nature. The book began to ignite a conversation about the threat our species poses to the Earth, and it was within the context of this burgeoning environmental awareness, in 1965, that Gilardi’s Tappeto-Natura series was born. On a Sunday walk by the Sangone creek near Turin, the artist came across a pile of rubbish along the shore. Irritated by the sight, his impulse was to reconstruct an unpolluted nature through his art. Since then, Gilardi has been conceiving Tappeto-Natura to concretize a dream: the dream of an ideal nature, uncontaminated, recreated in order to catalyze a cultural ‘re-enchantment’ with nature.

Gilardi arrived in New York for the first time in spring 1967 and then returned for a second time after the summer to remain longer and discover the culture of the city. He visited artists and exhibitions and immersed himself with various post minimalist scenes; he was immediately fascinated by the work of artists such as Alice Adams, Bruce Nauman, Eva Hesse and Frank Viner - who Lucy Lippard, included in Eccentric Abstraction at the Fischbach Gallery the year before. Gilardi would hold the first solo show of his “Rotoli” of Tappeto-Natura (“Rolls” of Nature-Carpet) at the same gallery in September 1967.

In 1967 and 1968 Gilardi lived in New York, exhibiting these works in both galleries and underground spaces and encountering artists of the neo-avant-garde. His exchanges with Michelangelo Pistoletto, with whom he shared many viewpoints, and Paolo Icaro, who lived in New York at the time, were fundamental to the formation of his artistic vision. Gilardi recognized the growth of a new global art movement and believed in creating relationships among artists living in worlds that were geographically distant but ideologically in sync. Often traveling between the United States, Italy, Germany, England, Holland and Northern Europe, Gilardi recounts: “The purpose of my trips from the United States to European countries was to stimulate and favor the birth of a network of artists active in new tendencies, free and independent from the art market. The photographic dossier with which I traveled contained works from 60 artists at the end and, through encounters with the individual artists, I was able to demonstrate how an international artistic movement was growing with a profound conceptual unity.”

Gilardi often found himself at the center of debate amongst many initiatives and wrote his thoughts in international journals and magazines, such as Flash Art and Arts Magazine - the latter in which he theorized about his newly-coined term “Microemotive Art” in 1968. According to him, the concept is “a free, asymmetric vibration, which arises as the representative of that primary energy.” This concept appears in the work of both American and European artists; it combines ‘Micro’ because it digs into the intimate to discover the mystery of energy, and ‘Emotive’ because it makes subjectivity reemerge.

As curator Elena Re remarks, “Overcoming the aesthetic dimension of the product, the art called its audience into play, or, better, people became a lasting part of the artistic process. The object, at this point, was the ‘canal’ through which vital energy arrived at its destination. The significance of this broad phenomenon is that, by this point, art was a marvelous incubator of emotions and experiences. Art was entering life, expressing its more profound truth, and was something that involved everyone and everything. For certain aspects, a more interesting example was represented by underground spaces, those ‘alternative spaces’ in which it was possible to exhibit artworks, confront art directly, listen to music, dance, in a word: live. This was the Piper Club of Turin, where, in 1967, with the help of his friend Gilberto Zorio, Gilardi hung his Tappeti-Natura (Nature-Carpets) and where his Vestiti-Natura (Nature-Clothing) became part of performance. Also following that perspective, the term ‘Arte Microemotiva’ coined by Piero Gilardi is an expression that announces the passage to a new art: a relational art.”

In his multisensorial Tappeti-Natura and through his dialogue with American artists, Gilardi found links between the “Microemotive Art” that was emerging in the U.S. and the work of his Italian peers who formed the Arte Povera movement, for example Mario Merz with his archetypes that revealed primary energy; Gilberto Zorio with his alchemical processes that liberated pure emotion; Michelangelo Pistoletto with his mirror paintings that call the world into the field.

Gilardi’s Nature-Carpets are like tiles of a unique and ideal landscape: his ecological vision is extremely rich and articulated. Working with artificial materials such as polyurethane foam, Gilardi creates shapes through the intaglio (carving) technique and then saturates the material with synthetic pigment - first dissolving it in vinyl resin, and later in rubber latex. The artist’s intent was to create real “aesthetic objects of practical use” that overcome the dualism between art and technology; natural and artificial; body and world.

The show, comprising sculptural works that span the museum lobby and Gallery 8, where they envelope the walls and floors in sculpted flora, is devoid of frames. Gilardi wanted to move away from the “frame of artistic representation” in order to more directly interact with the viewer’s mind and body. In early exhibitions of this work, it was possible to walk, lie down and have a multisensory experience of art and life on these rug- like creations.

“Of the guiding questions of today's life, the relationship between the individual, technologies and nature is definitely the most pressing and recurrent. Nature and the future seem increasingly incompatible on this planet," says the Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, about the exhibit Gilardi:Tappeto-Natura organized by Magazzino Italian Art. “In his artistic production, Piero Gilardi has consistently placed these two elements side by side as if to seek reconciliation between them. From Arte Povera works in the early '60s to the giant latex rocks, metaphors for the burden of the crisis in the recent years, moving through the 'new media art' in the '80s, Gilardi's artwork spans six decades and always shows contemporary relevance. Since the beginning of his career, Gilardi has exhibited alongside Italian and international artists, including Dan Flavin and Andy Warhol, starting a prosperous relationship between Italy and the United States which manifests itself in the creation of an international artistic community tied around the connections between art and life."

Tappeto-Natura is curated by Elena Re, and is organized with the support of the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C. For more information about the show, please visit magazzino.art.

About Piero Gilardi

Piero Gilardi (b.1942, Turin, Italy) was one of the protagonists of the Arte Povera Movement. By focusing on art experiences and entering a real debate at the heart of the avant-garde that defined the 1960s, he arrived at theorizing “Microemotive Art.”

He created his first pieces in polyurethane foam in 1964, and in 1965 and began working on his Tappeto-Natura series which became a central part of his oeuvre. He has exhibited internationally in Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg, Amsterdam and New York, presenting innovative and immersive ecological works. He pivoted his art practice to engage with the new artistic trends of the late 1960s, including Arte Povera, Land Art, and Antiform Art, bringing these trends to the international stage.

He collaborated on shows for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands and the Bern Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland. With a continued emphasis on the individual's unique experience with his art, Gilardi began the artistic research project IXIANA in 1985, presented at Parc de la Villette in Paris, France, where he invited the public to artistically experiment with new digital technologies. Along with Claude Faure and Piotr Kowalski, he formed the International Association Ars Technica. He also conceived Parco Arte Vivente (PAV), an experimental center for contemporary art and a testament to his commitment to art in nature, which opened in 2008 in his hometown of Turin. He directs PAV’s art programs which include indoor and outdoor contemporary art installations and exhibitions, notably investigating Living Art.

About Magazzino Italian Art

Located in Cold Spring, New York, Magazzino Italian Art is a museum and research center dedicated to advancing scholarship and public appreciation of postwar and contemporary Italian art in the United States. The nonprofit museum serves as an advocate for Italian artists as it celebrates the range of their creative practices from Arte Povera to the present. Through its curatorial, scholarly, and public initiatives, Magazzino explores the impact and enduring resonances of Italian art on a global level.

Meaning “warehouse” in Italian, Magazzino was co-founded by Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu. The 20,000 square-foot museum, designed by Spanish architect Miguel Quismondo, opened its doors in 2017, creating a new cultural hub and community resource within the Hudson Valley.

Admission is free to the public.

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