Category Archives: arte povera

Pino Pascali, Farm Tools (1968)

Leading agriculturalists, politicians and intellectuals got together this March to explore how Roman farming techniques can help us protect the environment in 2011.

The setting was Italy’s leading school of agriculture in Florence and the occasion was to mark 50 years of a journal of farming history, namely Rivista di storia dell’ agricoltura.

This publication would have been seven years old when Pascali made Farm Tools, so here both the artwork and the academic world appear to have been ploughing the same furrow.

Both ventures seem to express the Italian tendency to cast back in time to antiqiuity. Understandable, but artists had previously been more interested in art and architecture than farming.

This may have been an oversight, mind you. Historian Pliny the Elder makes an observation on the very theme which must have informed the arte povera movement:

“In what manner then are lands to be cultivated to the best advantage? In the cheapest manner if it is good, or by good bad things.” Source: this 19th century encyclopaedia.

Received wisdom and perhaps revived wisdom said that you could give the land too much “culture” or cultivation. And the same might be said of an audience, so Pascali uses rudimentary tools.

Once they are propped against a gallery wall, they remind me, if nothing else, of how little I know about rural life. So “good bad things” indeed, to quote Pliny quoting the ancients.

This work is on show at Camden Arts Centre, London, until 1 May 2011, in the Pino Pascali show mentioned in the last post.

Pino Pascali, Vedova Blu (1968)

There is nothing like an early death to fuse an artist’s biography and work in the minds of his audience. Here is Pino Pascali, beside one of his best known works, inseparable.

Common sense tells us that a motorcycle crash should not affect the worth of the Italian sculptor’s art. Yet it does, and this fact even seems to tell us something about the function of art.

Pascali himself spoke of his sculptures as tombs. Since his death in 1968 they are what indeed survive him. We have photographs and footage too, but the art is more vital.

But solemnity has gone out the window along with marble and bronze. Along with other artists from the arte povera movement, Pascali rejected traditional materials.

In light of his death, the gesture says: you can’t take it with you. This fur-covered spider has outlived every Italian Prime Minister of the 1960s. Bet you can’t name any of them.

Vedova Blu was created in a spirit of play, mind you. It is not very threatening, not even real, only the name suggests this Blue Widow is deadly. And this photo, of course, of a man at one with his own memorial.

Work can be seen in ‘…a multitude of soap bubbles which explode from time to time…’: Pino Pascali’s final works 1967-1968. This show is at Camden Arts Centre until May 1 2011.