Piero Gilardi and John Newling

Piero Gilardi and John Newling

Nottingham Contemporary

Piero Gilardi, Vestito Natura-Anguria (Nature Watermelon Costume), 
1967. Polyurethane foam. Courtesy the artist.

January 15, 2013

Piero Gilardi
Collaborative Effects 

John Newling
Ecologies of Value 
26 January–7 April 2013

Nottingham Contemporary 
Weekday Cross 
Nottingham NG1 2GB


Nottingham Contemporary is delighted to present solo exhibitions by Piero Gilardi and John Newling. Both artists have engaged with ecological and socio-political issues for many years, and both are important pioneers of socially engaged art. Their work continues to emphasise concept, action, process, site, collaboration and participation.

Piero Gilardi was an influential figure in the development of Arte Povera in Turin in the late 1960s, and his international networks and collaborative approach to exhibition making influenced the development of the two key post-Minimalist exhibitions, When Attitudes Become Form and Op Losse Schroeven in 1969. Collaborative Effects tracks his radical approach to collaboration inside and outside of the art world from 1963 to 1985. This 22-year period spans his interactive sculptures, including his celebrated Nature Carpets, and his subsequent creative work with many radical social and political movements in Italy and around the world.

Gilardi’s celebrated Nature Carpets are highly realistic slices of nature made from hand-painted and carved foam—audiences were originally encouraged to lie on them, picnic on them, or carpet their homes with them. Other early sculptures were designed to be worn and performed as costumes. Based in Turin, Gilardi left the art world in the late 1960s, at a time of great political turmoil in Italy, to become a “creative facilitator” for a range of left-wing causes: workers’ revolutionary struggles, the anti-psychiatry movement, radical youth groups and the rights of indigenous people around the world. His sculptural props and choreographed acts of protest continue to this day—his recent activist work has opposed austerity programmes and climate change.  

Collaborative Effects reveals the significant role Gilardi played in the development of the Italian and international avant-garde of the late 1960s and ’70s. It is the first exhibition to integrate his activist work within a museum exhibition amongst his sculpture. An exhibition of recent works will be shown at Gilardi’s art/ecology Parco Arte Vivante in Turin to coincide with Collaborative Effects at Nottingham Contemporary. Collaborative Effects is curated by Andrea Bellini and Diana Franssen and is a partnership with Castello di Rivoli in Turin and Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. A major publication, produced by the three institutions and JRP Ringier, documents the exhibition and the wider contexts of Gilardi’s fascinating creative and political trajectory.

Nottingham-based John Newling belongs to a generation of artists whose work evolved in the wake of Conceptual Art, Land Art and Arte Povera. His first major survey exhibition presents a selection of his work from the 1970s to the present day. Working with readymades, social and horticultural processes, questions and paradoxes, Newling’s process-based and participatory projects ask questions of the values we value and their interrelationships: socio-political, ecological, spiritual and financial. 

The first section of his exhibition includes replicas of high street cash machines made in copper, large glass bowls stained with the dirt accumulated on 50,000 two pence coins, and glass cabinets lined with Eucharist wine and wafers. New artworks in the second section of the exhibition are inspired by natural and ecological systems. For his exhibition he has grown and harvested over eighty Brassica Oleracea, or Walking Stick Cabbages, which grow up to 12 feet high. Seen in various stages of growth and decay during the exhibition, Newling is interested in their value for human use. Other plant-based sculptures include two hydroponic growth tents containing Moringa Oleifera, or Miracle Trees, a continuation of an earlier project at Nottingham Contemporary. Native to the foothills of the Himlayas, the plant is uniquely generous for human healing and nutrition. The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication on Newling’s work—the first to present an overview of his work—written and edited by Richard Davey, published in partnership with Nottingham Trent University. 

Piero Gilardi and John Newling at Nottingham Contemporary
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Nottingham Contemporary
January 15, 2013

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