Pier Paolo Calzolari
Artistic currents

Born in Bologna in 1943, Calzolari spent his childhood and adolescence in Venice, whose Byzantine artistic heritage and enchanting light leave a deep trace on the sensitivity of the future artist. In 1965 he returned to Bologna and opened a studio at Palazzo Bentivoglio, where he made his first works of painting and hosted exhibitions by other artists, presenting the first 8mm and super8 films by Ari Marcopoulos, Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, Mario Schifano and met characters such as Allen Ginsberg, Julian Beck, Luigi Ontani, Raymond Hains and Chet Baker. In 1966-1967 he realized the first of his works-performances (Il filtro e benvenuto all'angelo) which involved the spectators in a direct participation of the work and which Calzolari himself defined as an "activation of space", according to a working method typical of his subsequent production: the "acts of passion". Between 1967, the year in which he moved to Urbino, and 1971 Calzolari moved between Paris, New York and Berlin and brought his artistic project to maturity, establishing the parameters of his plastic vocabulary. In this period Calzolari is merged with the Arte Povera movement and his writing La casa ideale (1968) which finds fulfillment in a group of works, is considered by some to be one of the essential statements of this movement. In these years he realizes a wide cycle of works with icy and neon structures, such as Horoscope as a project of my life (1968) and the series Gestures (1968-1969) in which the formation of frost on forms, sanctioned by the passage of time, is an indication of the process of alchemical transformation of matter. In this way the objects and materials that the artist has been using since 1967 (fire, ice, lead, tin, salt, moss, tobacco) know a second life next to the luminous elements, a trace of the shine of Venetian marble. Starting in 1972, the artist focused on the study of painting in a profoundly unconventional way. Preferring new "supports", such as flannel or sheets of cardboard glued to the canvas, the artist juxtaposes pictorial signs with real objects, such as small paper boats or trains moving along endlessly repeated paths. Calzolari's painting is often linked to the physical involvement of people: in Berlin, for example, he creates a series of performance works (collected in the book entitled Day After Day, a Family Life) such as Usura amore e misericordia (1972-1974) in which the artist, subverting every formalism, brings the ritual of everyday life on the level of aesthetic experience and in horizontal relationship with the world and with history. His path, despite the evident proximity with the contemporary production of arte Povera artists (in particular with Mario Merz and Jannis Kounellis), with Conceptual Art and American Post Minimalism is characterized by several peculiar elements: the desire for saturation of the senses, the way to make visible the data of abstract thought and the essence of things, the particular attention paid to the fragility of objects and materials. From 1973 he moved between Bologna, Paris and Milan, where he settled for eight years continuing the parallel research between painting, sculpture and performance. Finally he moved to Turin and created installations at the Tucci Russo gallery composed of large format and performance paintings. Around 1982 he left Turin for Vienna, where he returned to focus mainly on painting and in 1984 he decided for the quality of light, to return to Montefeltro where he still lives and works. During this stay in Urbino, Calzolari was invited to participate in multiple residencies abroad, in particular in France (La Ferme du Buisson, Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Atelier Calder, Le Fresnoy) during which he worked in the field of dance, taking an interest in the study of the relationships between space, body and time, and thus giving new development to his performative work. The aesthetic dimension of Calzolari – which takes shape through paintings, sculptures, texts, sound recordings, videos, performances, and the involvement of people and animals – is in fact difficult to circumscribe or recompose in a project that is still in progress: "No formal consideration – writes Catherine David – can account for an experience whose dimension is returned in all its states". Calzolari lives and works in Fossombrone in the Marche region