Michelangelo Pistoletto Mirror of Judgement Triumphs

The greatly anticipated exhibition of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work, opened at the Serpentine today. Winner of the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Pistoletto has been instrumental in the advancement of conceptual art over the past several decades and is widely acclaimed as one of the main representatives of the movement Arte Povera. This summer the Serpentine Gallery opens a maze like exhibition, entitled The Mirror of Judgement; a labyrinth full of religious connotations and surprises.
The gallery space itself plays a large part in this work, with the visitors being led through narrow pathways built out of corrugated cardboard with almost every corner taken up by the artist’s invention. The mesmerising swirls and patterns formed by the expansive construction are confined only by the walls and windows of the rooms. By this means, Pistoletto takes us through a series of works based on four religions; Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism; and a central piece that is reminiscent of a shrine.
Each work represents a different religion, but all have one unifying force in common; the use of mirrors. The involvement of this medium by the artist has been one that has been employed throughout his career, notably, the early days of the 60’s when he found international recognition. Its use signifies an engagement with the public; one where the artwork changes and transforms itself according to its viewer, hence incorporating them in the work. Although one might think of this method as somewhat overused today, with others such as Anish Kapoor using these very devises, it is important to remember that Pistoletto was a pioneer of this type of work and it was once radical. Equally, the use of religious artefacts, settings and shapes put an interesting twist on it. Whether it is questioning the involvement of religion in today’s society or asking the viewer to put themselves in the place of others, it always alludes to Christianity, and sublime spirituality. At one point Pistoletto took off his hat and knelt down to be photographed at the press opening. Whether out of pure chance or photographer’s directions, this action only added a few more coils to the ever-spiralling labyrinth.
The Mirror of Judgement is an exhibition by one of the great living artists of the 20th century and well worth a visit at any cost. The work uses the gallery space to its limits, and engages its visitors with a promise of enlightenment, executed with an elegance rarely  seen in installation work today. Words: Max Costley Photo © ArtLyst 2011

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