Past the Mirror
Posted by Brittany the Intern on February 6, 2007 - 5:17pm
Categories: On the Walls

Michelangelo Pisteletto, The Etruscan (L'etrusco), 1976.  Bronze, Mirror.  120 x 84 x 47 inches.

In Michelangelo Pistoletto's The Etruscan, a sculpture of a man from this advanced, yet ancient society reaches into a mirror. The Etruscans, who were best known for their apparent gender equality and prolific funerary art, represent a culture with an extraordinary artistic past. Pistoletto uses this past to remind the viewer of the origins of contemporary art.

It is in this vein that the artist has the Etruscan's hand extending out, and a foot forward in contrapposto as if he were about to walk into the mirror. This suggestion of movement captures the eye, leading to the reflected image in front. Gesticulating a desire to reach forward, the Etruscan seems as if he is longing to touch the future. Since the mirror only shows a reflection, the question arises, "What does he see?" Is he imagining a future of art beyond what is in the museum and what we see today? I wonder if he were to come alive right now, would he be amazed by the more current artistic movements such as Minimalism and Pop Art that surround him? Would he find value in these works? With the thousands of years of history that separates him from our own working artists, I believe that the intentions of this Etruscan man would be similar: to move beyond the realms of known artistic paths.

Our Etruscan is beseeching the mirror with such a careful pose as if he expects a response from the rectangular, looking glass. When you observe this man cast in bronze forever reaching, do you feel the same longing to move forward? As you see his intentionally antiquated figure being reflected back out at the Museum, do you wonder for yourself what really is past the mirror?

I have heard people say things like, "There are no more movements in art today," or "Trying to do something new has become the norm." Has avant-garde lost its meaning? Have we created the Paris Salon all over again, only this time with the notion that artists MUST think outside the box? I think that is why this piece appeals to me so much. The idea is to break out of the past, yet the approach is to use an ancient aesthetic for an even deeper meaning. Maybe as an artist, alluding to something that is old can have more of an impact. Just maybe.

I agree with this quote by Robert Rauschenberg: "I don't think there's anything really wrong with influence because I think that one can use another man's art as material either literally or just implying that they're doing that, without it representing a lack of a point of view."

Do you reach forward with your art, whatever form it may be? What do you think is in the future for art? Is there a current legitimate movement that you think is important? Do artists always have to have a new approach or a new idea? Has "new" become the expected? And finally, is allusion a valid method?