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Overview

A painter, sculptor, and performer, Michelangelo Pistoletto is part of a generation of Italian artists that emerged during the 1960s and became identified with the Arte Povera (Poor Art) movement. He is also the most important Italian artist associated with the international new realism/pop art movement. Pistoletto was born in Biella, near Turin, in 1933. His father Ettore, a conservator, was his first art teacher, and introduced him to the techniques of old master painting. While enrolled in a commercial art school in Turin, Pistoletto ran an advertising studio and made his first paintings on canvas from 1956–1961. He discovered the technique of applying painted tissue paper to polished stainless steel in 1962. The resulting series of Mirror paintings catapulted Pistoletto’s career. Instantly seen as a kind of Italian pop art, these works were exhibited by the influential dealers Ileana Sonnabend and Gian Enzo Sperone, and were acquired by American collectors and museums (including the Walker Art Center, where Pistoletto had a one-man show in 1966). Pistoletto’s forays into sculpture during this period, such as the Minus Objects (1965–1966) and works incorporating rags and light bulbs (1967–1968), became identified with a new kind of Italian sculpture using natural and industrial materials known as Arte Povera.  Donna che indica (Woman who points) is from the second series of Mirror paintings, which Pistoletto began in 1973. In the earlier works, Pistoletto affixed tissue paper hand-drawn and -painted from a photographic print to the sheet of stainless steel; in this second series, he attached a silkscreened image of the photographic source to the metal surface. The silkscreened works appeared more anonymous in execution and more ethereal than his previous Mirror paintings. Inspired by Byzantine icons and Renaissance art, the Mirror paintings are both illusionistic and literal, incorporating the reflections of the spectator and gallery within the scenarios they create. One of the artist’s rare double-panel works, Donna che indica extends this illusionistic conceit across a wall, encompassing more spectators and a larger portion of reflected space than most of Pistoletto’s works. The five-centimeter division between the two sheets reveals the wall, interrupting the work’s seamless illusionism.  Donna che indica is the first work by Pistoletto to enter the Gallery’s collection. It is a significant example of late 20th century Italian art, an area in which the Gallery is keen to expand. Related works include Mimmo Rotella’s collage Muro Romano, 1958, Mario Merz’s sculpture Lingotto, 1969, and photographs by Arte Povera figures Giovanni Anselmo (Entering the Work, 1971), Giuseppe Penone (To Unfold One’s Skin, 1970–1971and Untitled, 1974), and Gilbero Zorio (Radical Fluidity, 1971).

Provenance

The artist; purchased 1982 by (Galleria Christian Stein, Milan); sold 1982 to Marco Rivetti [1943-1996], Turin; his family; re-purchased 1997 by (Galleria Christian Stein, Milan); purchased May 2014 through (Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York) by NGA.

Exhibition History
2008
Red Sky: Arte Povera, Luhring Augustine, New York, 2008, no catalogue.