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Michelangelo Pistoletto retrospective opens at Louvre

Book on Piedmont artist to be published May 15

Michelangelo Pistoletto retrospective opens at Louvre

(By Kate Carlisle)Rome, April 15 - A major retrospective of works by Italian contemporary artist Michelangelo Pistoletto kicks off April 25 at the Louvre in Paris. 'Annee un - le paradis sur terre' (Year one - Paradise on Earth), composed of 20 works by Pistoletto, is the first in a newly launched series of contemporary art exhibits hosted by the French museum. Born in the Piedmont city of Biella in 1933, Pistoletto's passion for art was kindled in his father's studio, who was a painter and restorer. When he was 27 years old he held his first solo show at Galleria Galatea in Turin in 1960. The Piedmont artists broke onto the scene in the early 1960s with his Mirror Paintings - quasi-photographic, life-size images of people and objects on polished stainless steel. Later he adapted his style and method by screen-printing the images onto the steel sheets. By the mid-1960s he became one of the principal movers of the Italian 'Arte Povera' (poor or impoverished art) movement - a type of avant-garde art made from humble, scrap materials, such as soil, chips of wood, rags and shreds of newspaper. In 1966, he had his first solo exhibition in the United State in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center and one year after began exploring performance art, video and theater. His action-art clutch of friends and collaborators called 'Zoo Group' began performing in 1968 in random locations - studios and streets of major Italian cities - generally announcing the event with a 'manifesto'. Zoo Group was a progression, the artist once said. "The Mirror Paintings could not live without an audience," Pistoletto said in a 1969 interview. In recent years he has also been anointed the forefather of interactive art and relational aesthetics. Over the last decade Pistoletto has devoted much of his energy to Cittadellarte, an interdisciplinary arts center he started in 1998 in a former textile mill in his birthplace, Biella. The centre and "laboratory" was conceived of to support and research creative resources while feeding innovative ideas and possibilities. The Cittadelarte is divided into different so-called 'offices' (work, education, communications, art, nutrition, politics, spirituality and economics) that form an exchange network. Pistoletto's work is now underpinned by what he calls his concept of Third Paradise. "The first paradise is the Earthly Paradise that preceded the biting of the apple. This was the natural paradise where everything was regulated by the intelligence of nature itself," he writes. "The second one is the Artificial Paradise, developed by human intelligence over the course of a very slow process that in the last few centuries has assumed an ever-larger and more exclusive dimension. This paradise consists of artificial needs, artificial comforts, artificial pleasures and all other forms of artifice". "The Third Paradise...can only be realized through the search for harmony between artifice and nature, he writes. On May 15, a book dedicated to the artist published by Simon and Schuster, 'The Voice of Pistoletto', will hit the stands in bookstores with an interview and over 200 images of his life and works.

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