Thence by descent to the present owner
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans Van Beuningen, Pistoletto, March – May 1969, n.p., no. 14, (text)
Catching glimpses of his immediate surrounding within the reflective surface of the present work, the viewer becomes an active partaker in Pistoletto's unique illusory artifice. Peering into the space beyond two heavy green curtains he finds himself catapulted into the forbidden realm beyond the picture plane. The thick weave and heavy drapes of the tendine add a domestic feel to the work– the scale of the mirror framed by the curtains evoke the image of a window from which the viewer gazes out into the world. If the use of the reflective surface distorts the boundaries between illusion and reality, the inclusion of the heavy green curtain, draped across the sides of the picture plane, adds an additional theatrical element. An obvious parallel might be drawn with the curtains of a theatre stage: just as they open and close to signal the beginning and end of a performance, Pistoletto’s open curtain positions the viewer onto the artist’s illusory stage beyond. Herein, the influence of Pistoletto’s career as a performance artist is very evident. He inverts the traditional role of the picture plane: the window through which the work recedes becomes a mirror out of which forms extend into the exhibition space and turn the work into a constant and infinite unscripted performance.
Pistoletto was the son of a restorer and would have been aware of the strong iconological pedigree held by the mirror within the history of Western art. He would’ve known how artists like Jan Van Eyck, Paolo Veronese, and Diego Velázquez used reflective surfaces to force viewers to engage with their works on an immediate level and he would have been aware of the artistic acclaim their mirror depictions had earned them. However, if these Old Masters started the practice, Pistoletto advanced it hugely and asserted his own role within the discourse. Where his aesthetic antecedents included mirrors in their works – glimpses of apparent reality within a wider illusion – Pistoletto includes his work within the mirror and drags the viewer’s reality into his illusion.
What makes the present work stand out is its distinct symbolic and visual portrayal of Pistoletto’s growing concern for the ‘theatre’ of painting. Seamlessly merging the separate worlds of reality and illusion into a coherent whole, it is a cogent example of the artist’s acclaimed Mirror Paintings.
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