Carve out an ideal world

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Magazzino inaugurates an exhibition of “nature carpets”

“I will have 8 meters of art, please – one section to wear, the other to decorate my house.”

Wacky? Maybe, but not if you had made it in the 1960s in the Turin studio of Piero Gilardi. The Italian artist was experimenting with materials and sculptural forms and, being interested in the dynamics between man and the environment, he would have been happy to fulfill the commission.

Piero Gilardi in 1966, in a photo taken for The Uomo Vogue

Gilardi’s work is celebrated at Magazzino Italian Art in Philipstown in an exhibition that runs until January 9. Organized by Elena Re, this is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States.

His title, Tappeto Natura, refers to the “nature carpets” that Gilardi imagined following a walk along a garbage-stained creek. The concept of human beings responsible for the environment was still new in the mid-1960s and he decided to rebuild nature without pollution.

“Rugs,” which take the form of rugs, wall art, or clothing, have occupied it for 50 years. They are molded with polyurethane foam and painted to look like landscapes with rocks, vegetables and fruits, all in bright colors and arranged and composed in such a way as to invite the eye to travel. They are Edens of melon, seabirds, shelled corn.

“Gilardi creates shapes through an intaglio [carving] technique and saturates the material with a synthetic pigment, dissolving it first in vinyl resin and then in rubber latex,” says Re.

Plain rugs – some of which were delivered rolled to galleries – contrasted with the consumerism of pop art of the time but proved popular. Gilardi said his intention was to “merge technology and nature – not pit them against each other – and suggest a homeostasis in which industrial processes and materials could actually help focus society on the nascent environmental movement.”

Despite his early successes, Gilardi, now 79, became disillusioned with the art world in the 1970s and retired for a decade. Upon his return, he increasingly focused on political and community activism, though usually always through the prism of nature. It has expanded its range to include new media, including virtual reality pieces and interactive installations.

Gilardi’s most recent project, which he started in 2008, is the Parco Arte Vivente (Park of Living Art), or PAV, a museum and study center in his hometown of Turin, set on 6 acres Green spaces. The grounds are often the site of outdoor facilities with an ecological vocation.

Magazzino Italian Art, at 2700 Route 9 in Philipstown, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Free entry; make a reservation at magazzino.art.

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