Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Reflections Bring the Viewer into the Work

Early on, Pistoletto was one of the progenitors of , a movement to make art from everyday life and everyday materials. Other members included , , and . Here, Pistoletto shows some of those same concerns in photographic silkscreens on polished steel, such as La gabbietta (1962–68), which features a birdcage partially draped with fabric. (There’s also a second, brighter version of that same work.) The reflections of viewers on the printed surface brings their presence into the image—and, thus, the cage. Likewise, Scimmia in gabbia (color variation) (1962–73) portrays a confined ape, urging viewers to empathize with this intelligent and incarcerated creature.
50 Azioni. 50 Euro nella mano destra (1962–2004) features a man’s hands holding €50 notes, as if counting. A related image, 50 Azioni. Occhiali e cellulare (1962–2004), shows two hands, one holding a cell phone, the other holding a pair of sunglasses. In each, gallerygoers can imagine themselves in these familiar circumstances, making the artworks almost performative.
Many pictures show people interacting, such as the couples in Respiro (2007) and Rosa e Enzo (1983), or even the artist’s overlapping silhouette in Autoritratto di stelle (1973). Through the use of reflection, they are brought into our world as more than mere representations. “I find myself inside the picture,” Pistoletto has said, “beyond the wall that is perforated ... by the mirror.”
—Stephen Dillon

The Mirror of Enigmas - Michelangelo Pistoletto” is on view at Repetto Gallery, London, June 26–July 24, 2015.