Uomo con berretto di lana

Michelangelo Pistoletto

(Italy, 1933)
Silk screen on stainless steel 250 x 125 cm (98.4 x 49.2 in.) 2007

'Uomo con berretto di lana' is a typical example of Michelangelo Pistoletto's quadri specchianti or mirror paintings, which became his signature works since 1961. It comprises of a silkscreen transferred onto a highly polished steel measuring two and a half metres in height. The work is intended to be hung flat on, or slightly above, the floor, enhancing its illusionistic possibilities. Mirror is not only a device for reflection. In Pistoletto's words, "I came to the mirror to try to transmit the idea that each viewer can have the same autonomous responsibility as the artist. People should, individually, be more similar to artists, and take a little bit more responsibility for their own freedom."

An ardent advocate of the performative in art, Pistoletto believes he is a mediator, rather than originator, of thought and experience between artwork and its spectator. The artist grew up surrounded by Renaissance and Baroque art; his father was a picture restorer and, as a young adult, Pistoletto assisted him. The mirror works seem to play on the trope of painting-as-window that has its origins in the Renaissance, such as the frescoed figures emerging through fictive doorways in the decorative scheme by Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) at the Villa Barbaro at Maser.

While the mirror is instrumental to Pistoletto's pursuit of imaginative, boundary breaking means of diversifying the nature and function of art within our social fabric, the human figure also acts as a motif for research into the objective identity of existence and spiritual need in the dynamics of everyday life. The life-size and lifelike figure of a young man in a wool hat seems to be observing emptily something beyond the looking glass. He could be lost in his thoughts. As viewers, we seem to encroach upon his private space as our own reflections peer back from the picture. Perhaps we should be more engaged in the state of the world around us? It is up to you, the spectator, to decide what this frozen moment means.

This painting cannot live without an audience. It was created according to the sentiment of 2007. By studying closely, one steps from the mirror to theatre... It is less a matter of involving the audience, of letting it participate, as to act on its freedom and on its imagination, to trigger similar liberation mechanisms in people.



"Italian modern and post-war contemporary art"

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