Broken Barriers: Michelangelo Pistoletto at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

Would you readily expect to find one of the world's most formidable gallery programs in a small Tuscan town that isn't even accessible by train? Probably not. But when you take into account that Galleria Continua in San Gimignano (about an hour and a half outside of Florence) has been open for 23 years, has expanded to Beijing and Le Moulin (France), and represents artists such as Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Mona Hatoum, you'd go a bit out of your way, too.

Their current exhibition, a solo offering from Italian contemporary powerhouse Michelangelo Pistoletto, gives you just a taste of how intense each artist's efforts are in shifting a global conversation on how visual art impacts and affects its audience. Once through the glass doors at the entrance on Via del Castello, Pistoletto's world famous 'mirror' works adorn the walls and glassy shards sit in a pile at the space's center. Each mirror on the wall is decorated with a black swirl or geometric block, as if mimicking it being broken (but it is more than broken: even a broken mirror reveals something versus nothingness). In a small antechamber, what appears to be a sculpted, horizontal marble column put inside an arch is actually a profile of the artist that can be viewed from both sides. Another vestibule reveals a series of fences and gates, where a message on the wall (in Italian), 'Art Is Free Once More', is just visible. The gallery rents an old cinema (complete with the original 1940's projectors), where parts of Pistoletto's epic project Terzo Paradiso is held. A series of photographs are lined up in the two galleries on either side of the theatre below: every photo is a documentation of a sculpture, painting, or performance that plays on the ancient symbology of the Infinite. On the ground floor of the theatre, three rings formed from hundreds of mounted cymbals join to recreate the symbol, once more.

In short, Pistoletto allows his audience to experience not the just possibility of self-reflection and active participation in contemporary art, but proves its vitality. His work is laced with humor, but only because it can register so quickly to so many cultural gradients. At its heart, however, Pistoletto reveals a restlessness, a desire for art to belong to humanity and not just reflect it.

Michelangelo Pistoletto's solo exhibition opened at Galleria Continua on September 9th and closes on January 7th, 2014. Galleria Continua San Gimignano is located inside the Medieval commune of San Gimignano in Tuscany, at Via del Castello 11, 53037. The gallery has two additional locations in Beijing's Dashanzi Art District, China and at 46 rue de la Ferté Gaucher in Boissy-le-Châtel (Seine-et-Marme) in France. For more information, visit www.galleriacontinua.com.

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