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Michelangelo Pistoletto

Michelangelo Pistoletto, artist, in conversation with James Meyer, curator of art, 1945–1974, National Gallery of Art. Commonly referred to as the Mirror Paintings and composed of photo-based images on steel, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s most celebrated works were developed in 1962 and represent his dual interest in conceptualism and figuration. The Mirror Paintings directly include the viewer and real time in the work, and open up perspective, reversing the trend of twentieth-century avant-garde movements that had closed the linear perspective of the Renaissance. In 1965–1966 Pistoletto created the Oggetti en meno (Minus Objects), a set of nonrepresentational sculptures constructed of commonplace, “poor” materials. These works are considered fundamental to the birth of the Arte Povera movement in Italy, of which Pistoletto was a leading figure. In the context of the disillusionment of postwar Europe, they sought to reconfigure the relationship between art and life. Comprised of 28 disparate objects—an oversize cardboard rose; an industrial lamp casting green light; a minimalist iron sculpture—the Minus Objects break with the notion of a signature style and are symbolic of infinite creative possibilities. As an ensemble, it minimizes the role of authorship, permitting each enigmatic object to speak for itself as autonomous and self-sufficient. In this conversation with James Meyer, held on November 6, 2017, the artist discusses his newly published monograph, Michelangelo Pistoletto: The Minus Objects 1965-1966, which explores the origins and impact of this seminal body of work as a radical turning point in postwar sculpture and conceptual art. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Art collection by Donna che indica (Woman who points) (conceived 1962, fabricated 1982).