Giulio Paolini (born 1940, Genoa) is seen as the most cerebral or conceptual of the Arte Povera artists. His work is principally concerned with an exploration of the nature of art. Untitled, 1962–3, for example, is one of a number of works made from 1961 onwards, in which he presented the materials used in art as the work itself. Consisting of a blank canvas inside three frames, it takes art both as the subject and object of the work. Similarly, another piece of the same date juxtaposes two blank canvases, one seen from the back.
Paolini’s subsequent work includes complex and visually spectacular installations, often using plaster casts of classical sculpture. The Apotheosis of Homer, 1970-1, is a complex, layered work about representation and interpretation. Displayed on thirty-two music stands, and accompanied by a soundtrack of the artist’s voice, are photographs of famous actors playing historical figures.
Paolini is also interested in the process of perception and the experience of vision. Young Man Looking at Lorenzo Lotto, 1967, for instance, is an actual-size photographic reproduction of Lotto’s Portrait of a Young Man, 1505. The title of the work shifts the emphasis from the traditional notion of the artist’s gaze regarding his subject, to the steady stare of the sitter himself, gazing back at the artist. We the viewers complete the cycle of looking. ‘I wanted to restore the moment in which Lotto executed the painting, and transform, for a moment, everyone who looks at the photo-graphic reproduction into Lorenzo Lotto’ said Paolini.