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Pino Pascali

(1935—1968)


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Italian sculptor, painter, and graphic designer, born at Bari and active in Rome, where he studied at the Academy, 1955–9. He was impressed by an exhibition of Rauschenberg in Rome in 1959. Most of his work before 1964 was destroyed after his death by his father on the artist's request, but it has been described as being ‘in diverse media such as plastic and polyester, treated with plaster and papier mâché’. More important for his later work was probably his experience as a graphic designer in the mass media. In his first exhibition of 1965 he showed large poster-scale canvases stretched to make shapes like the lips of Billie Holiday or a woman's cleavage. The technique had some affinity with the work of the British painter Richard Smith but with added eroticism. At this time he could have been identified unproblematically as a Pop artist, although he maintained that Pop was specifically American and that the European or Italian artist ‘could only be an isolated phenomenon of revolt’, while admitting a common interest in sex and mass culture. The following year he exhibited the life-size models of weapons which announced him as a distinctive and hard to classify artist. These striking all-black pieces were comments on the tensions and hypocrisies of the Cold War. A missile was entitled Paloma delle Pace (Dove of Peace). In a lighter mood he made ‘play pieces’ such as his Fictitious Sculptures of 1966 (animals made of white canvas stretched over wooden ribs) and his Water Pieces of 1967 (aluminium basins filled with water dyed to imitate sea water). Such work was to be important to the development of Arte Povera. In 1968 he achieved the recognition of a display at the Venice Biennale, but later that year he died from injuries received in a motorcycle accident. The critic Giuliano Briganti identified Pascali's recurring theme as ‘the search for the essential, for the primal, the urge to strip things of all superstructure, to remove them from the authority of history and arrive at what can be understood as the mythical core’.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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