Michelangelo Pistoletto is one of Arte Povera’s most significant protagonists. Since the 1960's his work has followed two profoundly linked paths, a body of conceptual sculpture grounded in the tenents of Arte Povera and an ongoing iconic series of Mirror Paintings, comprising figurative, graphic or sculptural images applied to the surface of polished stainless steel. Representing his dual interest in conceptualism and figurative representation, together these bodies of work have earned Pistoletto enduring international recognition. Alongside this practice Pistoletto is the founder of the cittadellarte in Biella, northern Italy, a cross-disciplinary foundation for research and the development of ideas.
‘Michelangelo Pistoletto has been making his Mirror Paintings for almost fifty years documenting the world that he sees and lives in. They are diaristic, time-based works incorporating not only the history of photography in the period he has been making them – he has proceeded from using glass negatives to Polaroid to digital photography, from the hand-painted to the screen printed, from black and white to colour, from static to motion – but also the history of clothing, artefacts, manners and mores. As time passes so the images he presents on the surface of the mirror become increasingly like relics reminding the viewer of his own mortality and of times past. But he also presents the viewer with a reaffirmation of his individuality, his distinctness from what he sees, for every time he looks in the mirror he evokes what Lacan called the mirror stage, the moment in a young child’s life when he recognises that the image he gazes at is his own reflection and he gradually forms an identity separate from his mother. Every time I look in the mirror I encounter myself as the other, and in receiving my gaze can explore both my separateness from and connectedness to the world. A Mirror Painting is a means to orientation in the world, of encouraging conscious experience of phenomena as experienced from the first person point of view, invoking perception, thought, memory, bodily awareness and social activity. It is a work of art in the world and the world in a work of art.’ (Jeremy Lewison, in Michelangelo Pistoletto. Mirror Paintings, Hatje Cantz, 2011).