Pier Paolo Calzolari
He lives and works in Fossombrone, in the Marche region of Italy.
Born in Bologna in 1943, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Venice, whose Byzantine artistic heritage and unique quality of light played a profound role in shaping the future artist’s sensibilities. In 1965 he returned to Bologna and set up a studio in Palazzo Bentivoglio, where he produced his first paintings and hosted exhibitions by other artists, presenting early 8mm and Super 8 films by Ari Marcopoulos, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas and Mario Schifano, and crossing paths with cultural figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Julian Beck, Luigi Ontani, Raymond Hains and Chet Baker. In 1966-1967 he created the first of his performance pieces (Il filtro e benvenuto all’angelo), which drew viewers into it as direct participants, and which Calzolari himself called an “activation of space”, in keeping with a method that would characterize his subsequent work:
“acts of passion”. From 1967 (when he moved to Urbino) to 1972, Calzolari moved between Paris, New York and Berlin, developing his artistic vision and laying out the parameters of his vocabulary. During this period, Calzolari became associated with Arte Povera, and his text La casa ideale, brought to fruition through a group of works, is considered by some to be one of the key statements of this movement. He began creating an extensive cycle of pieces using refrigeration and neon, such as Oroscopo come progetto della mia vita and the Gesti series, in which the formation of frost, underscored by the passage of time, evokes the alchemical transformation of
matter. Through this approach, the objects and materials the artist has used since 1967 (fire, ice, lead, tin, salt, moss, tobacco) are given another life, alongside lighting elements that seem to echo the sublime radiance of Venetian marble. In the same period, infinity symbols became a recurrent motif within his dialectic, as in the Rapsodie inepte series.
In 1972, Calzolari began turning his attention to a highly unconventional exploration of painting. Choosing to employ new kinds of surfaces, such as thick flannel or sheets of paper glued to the canvas, the artist juxtaposes pictorial signs with real objects, like small paper boats or toy trains running along endlessly repeated paths.
Calzolari’s paintings remain linked to the physical engagement of viewers: in Berlin, for example, he created a series of performance pieces documented in the book Day After Day, a Family Life (for instance, Usura amore e misericordia, a work in progress from 1972 to 1974). In these works the artist, subverting all formalism, brings the ritual of everyday life onto the plane of aesthetic experience, in a horizontal relationship with the world and with history. His approach, despite its obvious kinship to the work of other Arte Povera artists in the same period (particularly Mario Merz and Jannis Kounellis), to Conceptual Art and American Minimalism, or even to Joseph Beuys, is characterized by a number of unique elements: its quest for a saturation of the senses verging on insanity, the way it renders visible the abstractions of thought and the essence of things, the
particular attention focused on the fragility of objects and materials. In 1973, he moved between Bologna, Paris, and Milan, where he settled for eight years, continuing his parallel exploration of painting, sculpture, and performance. He then went on to Turin, where he created installations
for the Tucci Russo gallery which combined large-scale paintings and performance pieces.
Around 1982, he left Turin for Vienna, where he shifted his primary focus back to painting. A year and a half later, he set up a studio in Crete, but the dazzling light of the South hampered any formal realization of the ideas he was pursuing. He encountered the same problem in Morocco, although he managed to create an entire series of large drawings there. To find conditions better suited to his work, he decided to return to Italy, and initially to Venice, where he opted for a studio in the Giudecca neighborhood. Unfortunately, Calzolari’s return to the city of his childhood ran up against the obstacle of a profoundly changed context that provided little fodder for his intellectual curiosity. And so in 1984, to find the quality of light he longed for, he decided
to return to Montefeltro, where he lives and works to this day. Over this time in the Urbino area, Calzolari has been invited to take part in many foreign residency programs, especially in France (La Ferme du Buisson, Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Atelier Calder, Le Fresnoy), where he has worked in the field of dance, investigating the relationship between space, body and time, and thus developing new facets of his performance work.
Calzolari’s aesthetic universe – manifested through painting, sculpture, text, audio, video, performance, the involvement of people and animals, architecture and light, and a wide variety of materials – is difficult to circumscribe or piece together, since it is a project that is still unfolding. As Catherine David writes, “No formal analysis can describe an experience whose nature is conveyed through the sum of its various states”.
The path Calzolari has charted is a disorienting one, and can sometimes confound attempts at critical, formal or ideological categorization.
1967 - 1970
|Materials||structure freezes up, motor|
11.11.11 | 20.02.12