Magazine article Sculpture

NEW YORK: Pier Paolo Calzolari

Magazine article Sculpture

NEW YORK: Pier Paolo Calzolari

Article excerpt

Marianne Boesky Gallery and The Pace Gallery

Pier Paolo Calzolari, like Arte Povera (the movement with which he is associated), is insufficiently valued in the U.S. Some critics deem the Italian movement-with its emphasis on base materials and their interactions-hokey and pompous, a preferably forgotten chapter in the history of postwar art. But at its best, Arte Povera has produced some of the most gripping art of the past half-century, and Calzolari's strongest works would stand their ground in the finest collections of contemporary art.

If you embrace the cold, cerebral, and doctrinaire aesthetic of Judd at the expense of all else, then Arte Povera will seem both rhetorical and lacking in purity. If you have a taste for Rauschenberg's image-riddled "Combines" and their progeny, Arte Povera will seem inadequate to the task of handling contemporary life, and, therefore, inauthentic. However, Rauschenberg's magical handling of materials, his seemingly boundless powers of invention, and his early monochrome pictures inspired Calzolari, as did, I would argue, the work of Alberto Burri and of Joseph Beuys. Arte Povera's principal theme seems a melancholic weighing of the past. Its stark juxtaposition of materials brings to mind abandoned factories, the cavernous rooms of old palazzi, and the weathered surfaces of ancient ruins-and it is in just such spatial contexts that Arte Povera really ignites. Yes, it is nostalgic, but it can also achieve the epic, sadness-tinged proportions of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Visconti's Il Gattopardo, or the work of Cy Twombly. And the same applies to Calzolari's finest works.

At Boesky, one was quickly confronted with the mysterious Untitled (Work in progress from a 1970s project) (1988-2012), with the ceiling of the space unevenly covered in rich yellow wax, from which emerged occasional curving strips of blue neon-a thick, golden sky streaked with flashes of light. The floor below was covered with overlapping rectangular sheets of lead that curved up the base of the walls, likewise evoking softness, warmth, and protection- though some believe that lead poisoning led to the decline of the Roman Empire. A material later used by Zorio, Kiefer, and Forg, lead was used regularly by Calzolari for its meanings and material beauty. A Beuysian symbolism, steeped in myth and/or history, seemed present in this space with its leaden floor and fatty ceiling. A steaming kettle, raised up on a tripod and seemingly causing a small rod to spin, added another piece to the puzzle. …

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