Paolini soon turned to other media, in particular photography, as part of his continuing investigation of painting and of the status of the individual object. This sense that a work is not just itself, in the ‘here and now', but also the record of an earlier phase, led Paolini to an enquiry into the past.
From the inception of Arte povera in the late 1960s Paolini was considered one of its leading exponents. Although he shared the conceptual emphasis of his colleagues, during the 1970s he turned increasingly to an investigation of the whole system of art as recorded in museums. The most famous paintings of the past, by such artists as Raphael, Poussin and de Chirico, are treated as a pretext for daring operations that involve either reassembling them piecemeal, breaking them up or even treating them as identical, as though they were ready-mades. Paolini's references to classicism and Neo-classicism, alongside his use of plaster casts of statuary or Corinthian columns, rephrased his ideas about the inter-relationship of past and present and between replication and originality. These works anticipated the revivalist trends that dominated art in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although he continued to adhere to a bare, unadorned means of expression.
G. Celant: Giulio Paolini (New York and Paris, 1972)
Giulio Paolini (exh. cat., essays by M. Fagiolo and A. C. Quintavalle; U. Parma, Ist. Stor. A., 1976)
Giulio Paolini (exh. cat., ed. H. Szeemann and D. Elliott; Amsterdam, Stedel. Mus.; Oxford, MOMA; 1980)
Giulio Paolini (exh. cat., Stuttgart, Staatsgal., 1986)
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