Mezzo secolo di ecologia della mente, 2014, installation view

Piero Gilardi

6 March - 28 June 2014

Guido Costa Projects is proud to present Mezzo secolo di ecologia della mente, the new one-man show of work by Piero Gilardi, which will open at 6.30 pm on Thursday 6 March 2014.
Piero Gilardi has been a key figure in Italian art since the early 60s and a rare example of an intellectual mind at the service of the arts, able to channel his extraordinary creative energy into an amazing variety of works that pursue utopian and innovative ideals.
Ever since his debut contemporary with the arte povera movement in Turin, Gilardi has invested his artistic experimentation with periods of profound rethinking, leading him on many occasions to openly challenge art as a codified system. One such experiment was the recent creation of the PAV (Living Art Park), an ongoing project of immense theoretical importance and unprecedented on the international art scene.
Over the years, Piero Gilardi has consistently represented the figure of the politically engaged artist whose political militancy and active participation in the social upheavals of contemporary life find a voice in the creation of individual work, work that carries a greater message beyond the confines of the small stage within galleries and museums. His transversal commitment has on occasions led him out of normal artistic circles, outside habitual distributions channels and even far from the idea of authorship itself. During these decades of intense political activism his presence could be felt increasingly on ideological battlefields, whether it be demonstrations in favour of anti-psychiatry, the struggle for workers’ rights or carrying out anthropological research of oppressed and marginalized populations. This was a long and troubled period, richly documented by ephemeral writings and happenings and well as the setting up of working groups and collectives.
Following a number of international exhibitions, his immense oeuvre has only recently been brought back to the public’s attention in an attempt to reread and contextualize his artistic teachings.
And finally we come to his most important and ambitious artwork, the PAV. An expression of “social sculpture” whose ultimate goal is that of sharing of knowledge and horizontal creativeness. It is one of the most radical experiments ever tackled in art, reversing conventional aesthetics into “a politics of collaboration”.
Yet, or perhaps better, precisely owing to his lonely battle against the dominant practices of aesthetics and his mission to scout unconventional territories to the limit of sustainability, Piero Gilardi today runs the risk of passing unheard or being mystified.
A younger generation of curators has, however, found in his writings and his many other works a clear example of anti-institutional critique and new hitherto unknown horizons for the arts; hence his recent museum success and renewed attention on the part of the most dynamic collectors, keen to pay tribute to some of the most important end-of-the-millennium art.
The exhibition at Guido Costa Projects marks the beginning of a collaboration between Gilardi and the gallery, which hopes to contribute to this discovery by providing a cross section of works spanning the artist's early production to the present, thus creating a sort of mini retrospective that highlights some of the artists guiding concerns.
The main idea of the show is to trace a path beginning with his early 60’s sculptures and documents related to his involvement with non-art environments and a selection of straightforwardly political documents that bring us up to date with his most recent work exploring the concept of “interactivity”.
From here our attention shifts from Vestito stato d’animo (mood dress, 1967), conceived for use in performances highlighting the critical barriers between art and public, to a glass cabinet containing accounts and memorabilia dating back to his days as an operator in Psychiatric Care Centres, in close conjunction with the revolutionary reforms proposal by Franco Basaglia (Documentazioni psichiatria alternativa, 1970).
A number of posters from 60’s take a foray into the harsh reality of mental hospitals at the time, symbolising a shift from aesthetic to social considerations and the birth of a collective art no longer subject to the idealisticaly imposed chains of inspiration and authorship. This need for change is perfectly expressed by Agnelli Morte (1979-2012), a mobile sculpture originally designed to be an instrument of political struggle during demonstrations; presented here in a different guise as playing a pivotal role of reconciliator within the constelation of the arts.
The exhibition concludes with the large interactive installation Noi come puzzole (Us as skunks, 2013). Specially made for the occasion it reiterates the artist’s struggle for participatory as opposed to non-contemplative art, summarising some of the main themes of the PAV, Gilardi’s last great challenge to the world of the institutionalised arts.
Articulate and sophisticated complexity is here supported by the playful and libertarian cut and thrust that has always characterized the work of Piero Gilardi. Outwardly light-hearted, the exhibition is charged with political and ethical significance at once able to reconcile with the trials and tribulations of hardboiled artistic creation, and free us once and for all from the decadence of so much of today’s art.
The exhibition will remain open to the public during gallery times from Monday to Saturday until the end of June 2014.