Paola Pivi Comes to The Warhol with Mattresses, Polar Bears and Shoes
The Italian artist's latest exhibit features numerous nods to the North Shore museum's namesake.
There’s a new, zen-like space at The Andy Warhol Museum.
The first things you’ll notice in the gallery are stacks of colorful mattresses hanging above one another. The work, “Milano,” was produced in collaboration with More-So, a division of Italian design company Moroso, and you’re invited to slip on some shoe coverings and hop inside.
“They kind of have this sort of whimsical, ‘Princess and the Pea’ — they look folkloric, they look mythological,” says José Carlos Diaz, chief curator at The Warhol, of this section of Italian artist Paola Pivi’s new exhibit, “Paola Pivi: I Want It All”. “The idea is you can crawl inside and have your own little sort of sanctuary or habitat.”
On the far wall is Pivi’s “Bigger Than My Eyes,” a slowly spinning wheel with spokes made from peacock feathers. It’s a mesmerizing experience that invites one to linger and take a breath.
And sitting on a custom platform is a miniature replica of Warhol’s famous couch (the full-size replica can be found in the building’s lobby), soaked in perfume. Pivi has a practice of rescaling iconic and well-known furniture, Diaz says, and the couch that sat in Warhol’s Factory was a perfect fit.
“It’s an amazing couch, and clearly they lived on this couch, he created art on the couch,” Pivi says. “It was like the center of attention of his studio life, and when I started this series of couches, it is because the couch is a place where life happens.”
“We talk about how this room always feels like a wellness center,” Diaz says. “It’s feeling very therapeutic, with aroma, the idea of laying down, the idea of being hypnotized, being calm. The senses are very much activated, whether it’s sight, smell, touch.”
The three galleries in “I Want It All,” on view through Aug. 15, each have their own look and feel. Across the hall is a collection of baby polar bears, a variation on Pivi’s life-size polar bear sculptures. These cubs each have their own personality — some fight or play, one chews on a shoe, another hangs from a trapeze — and their “fur” is actually neon feathers.
Also in the gallery is a work with another type of animal: a photograph of Pivi’s “Yee-haw,” from 2015, when she was commissioned to mount a work with live horses under the Eiffel Tower.
And then there are the shoes.
In the opening gallery, “Untitled (shoes),” commissioned by The Warhol, is mounted on all three walls. For the work, Pivi asked people to offer up a pair of their shoes — 125 pairs have been worn, and their exact counterpart lives next to them on the wall, pristine.
“Shoes often relate to professions, to class, but now they’re also related to vanity, to style … geographically, where you live,” Diaz says. “And so what’s really beautiful about these shoes is they’ve been worn for a year, from people around the world, and you get hints into who they are, who they are professionally, maybe what the climate was where they were when they were wearing these.
“Then to bring them all here collectively, because Warhol himself was surrounded by all sorts of interesting people … if you look at this gallery, it almost feels like animal trophies or butterfly specimens.”
Diaz notes a relation to Pivi’s famous work “Guitar Guitar,” where sets of two identical objects were compiled in one giant space.
“The idea of pairing, the idea of numbers, the idea of matching is something you’ll see, many times, even when you walk through this show,” he says.
Some of the shoes belonged to Pivi herself or her family members. One pair was worn by Diaz; another by Pittsburgh drag queen Dixie Sherwood. Many were from people on the street Pivi came in contact with; she told them she admired their shoes and wanted to put them in her exhibit. The owners’ origins range from Pittsburgh to Alaska (where Pivi now lives) to Italy to India, and the brands range from Crocs to Jimmy Choos.
“It’s like a diary of the individual,” Diaz says. “They bear the scars of the individuals who were wearing the shoes, and then they come here as one installation.”
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