For me fire is one of the primary energies that I consider in an elementary, democratic and horizontal manner.
Pier Paolo Calzolari, Lisbon, 2022
Following the concepts central to Arte Povera, Pier Paolo Calzolari works from the outset with materials in constant dialogue with each other. These include humble materials from semi-industrial urban contexts, or natural elements, like fire and wood, as well as scrap metal, everyday objects and neon tubes. Calzolari established a dialogue between the viewer and the everyday object which has undergone a transformation. Moreover, he places artificial and processed elements in opposition to natural elements in their primordial state, such as fire. During the exhibition’s opening days, form the 21st to the 24th of April between 11 am and 7 pm on an hourly basis, visitors will be able to experience the Mangiafuoco performance with a fire-eater.
Pier Paolo Calzolari was born in Bologna in 1943, but spent his childhood and adolescence in Venice. The city’s artistic and aesthetic heritage left a lasting impression on the future artist.
In 1965, he exhibited his first painting in Bologna, and presented the first films of Ari Marcopoulos, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas and Mario Schifano. At the same time, he met famous figures like Allen Ginsberg, Julian Beck, Luigi Ontani, Raymond Hains and Chet Baker. In 1966 – 1967 he created the first of his performance works, involving the audience in direct participation with the performance, which Calzolari himself defined as “space activation”. Between 1967 and 1972 he travelled between Paris, New York and Berlin developing and maturing his artistic projects.
During this period, Calzolari became part of the Arte Povera movement and created a large cycle of works based on frozen structures and neon, in which the frost that formed on the shapes with the passage of time represented the alchemical transformation of the matter. In this way, the objects and material that the artist had used since 1967 (fire, ice, lead, tin, salt, moss, tobacco) took on a second life alongside the light elements, recalling the gleaming effect of the Venetian marble.
After 1972, the artist focused on non-conventional painting techniques. He preferred new supports like flannel or cardboard glued to canvas; he placed pictorial markings alongside actual objects such as small paper boats or toy trains running along endlessly repeated routes, bringing rituals of daily existence on a level with aesthetic experience in a horizontal relationship with the world and history, while, at the same time, trying to maintain a bond with the physical participation of the public.
Despite its obvious proximity with works by other artists produced at the same time, his work featured various particular elements: a desire to saturate the senses, a way to make aspects of abstract thought and the essence of certain things visible, and a special attention focused on the fragility of objects and materials.