Pier Paolo Calzolari

Collection Gemma De Angelis Testa, Milan. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

Within Pier Paolo Calzolari‘s works (Bologna, 1943) – one of the artists Germano Celant brought together under the term Arte Povera in the late 1960s – elements from the natural world, often liable to rapid deterioration (tobacco leaves, margarine, moss, mattresses, salt, lead, iron, copper) are united with technological products (neon tubes, cooling motors, tape recorders), suggesting a material and conceptual tension which also evokes the different time scales inherent in his work.

Calzolari’s artistic practice appears as a narrative of reality that develops through its constituent elements, in which the abandonment of a representative logic is matched by the expressive potential of the material. The rigorous compositional structure derived from the language of painting is transposed to create installations that inhabit space; the chromatic value is obtained by the color generated by materials and procedures that become part of the creative process.

Among his most famous works are those made with cooling engines that freeze the surfaces on which interact various materials, often taken from the domestic sphere. These “frosted” paintings, as the artist calls them, stage a dialogue between the finiteness of existence, exposed in an everyday “still life”, and the absoluteness of the infinite and universal, embodied in the whiteness created by the frost (pure essence) and the mechanism itself of “freezing”, which hibernates the residues of one age and consigns them to a hypothetical future.

Senza titolo (“Untitled”, 1965) is a surface that appears white due to the use of salt, a chemically pure element on which are perceptible evanescent inscriptions obtained by deduction. The salt interacts with the molleton behind it, a heavy felted fabric which evokes a household function but in this case is acts appropriately as a yielding support. The artist also applies some tobacco to the lower part of the picture, so obtaining a gradation of color stains. The work embodies Calzolari’s tendency to paint with elements drawn from the real world, which become linguistic tools capable of generating new meanings.

After the exhibition at the Modern Art Agency in 1972, Calzolari, thanks to the mediation of Lucio Amelio, in 1977 presented works produced between 1965 and 1970 – including the work entered in the collection in the context of Per_forming a collection project – at a major retrospective at Villa Pignatelli, together with performances and urban interventions.


Senza titolo, 1965

Currently not on view

Collection Gemma De Angelis Testa, Milan. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

Installation view, in the context of "Per_forming a collection #4"

Courtesy Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.