I’ve always had a problem with the abstract model. I’m more interested in the interstices between poetry and reality. And with art, in a way, I’m trying to do the same thing by pushing reality to become abstraction and poetry.
Italian-born, Los Angeles–based artist Piero Golia is a sculptor of situations. His works—which at times take physical form, often at an architectural scale, and at others are immaterial—are statements aimed at expanding the possibilities of art. His practice is heterogeneous and unpredictable, employing diverse mediums and methods to spark chain reactions that, even when they leave no objects or images behind, have the capacity to alter our perception.
As a young man in Naples, Golia studied chemical engineering, learning about the transformation of raw materials into powerful energy sources. Such a concept captures a crucial aspect of his artistic approach, in which he takes preexisting objects from lived reality as the starting point for a set of actions that unfold, displacing initial meanings and functions.
Drawn to the varied cultural associations of Los Angeles, where he has lived and worked since 2002, Golia has produced a vast number of artworks inspired by or situated in the city itself. For example, Luminous Sphere (2010), a five-foot-tall orb installed on the roof of West Hollywood’s Standard Hotel, is only illuminated when the artist is in town; like a sacred presence expressed in LA vernacular, the mysterious cipher awaits projection of meaning from the casual passerby unaware of what drives its pattern of illumination. “It’s a form open to urban legend,” the artist muses. In 2008 Golia was invited to take over a booth at the Art LA fair; his contribution was to completely fill the space with a full-sized passenger bus that had been dramatically crushed by bulldozers to fit the dimensions of the exhibition space.
Retaining ties to his Italian roots, Golia was selected to represent Italy at the Biennale di Venezia in 2013. Golia installed Untitled (My Gold Is Yours) (2013), a gray cube 2.5 meters tall, composed of thirty-six tons of concrete mixed with two kilograms of gold sand and set directly on a grassy outdoor plaza. He then invited visitors to “mine” the sculpture for gold, a social proposition that would transform the physical form and monetary value of the work independent of the artist’s own direct actions.
Golia frequently operates outside the traditional parameters of studio practice, often producing situations that aim to elicit an intuitive and spontaneous response from his viewers through theatrical, conceptual gestures. In 2013 he opened Chalet, an underground Hollywood speakeasy (later restaged as Chalet Dallas at the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2015) that was conceived as a space combining architecture, entertainment, and art. Working with architect Edwin Chan, Golia created his Chalets to encourage social interactions and generate a convivial art community that was visited by movie stars, art world luminaries, a local marching band, acrobats, and even a pair of alpacas. During the closing celebration of the four-month-long Dallas installation, Golia hired a mariachi band, arranged a fireworks display, and commissioned a large stage curtain printed with the iconic closing sequence from Looney Tunes cartoons, with the words “That’s All Folks!” His immediately recognizable Mariachi Painting series (2016), made from cut and stretched swatches of the Chalet Dallas curtain, serve as relics of this spectacular event.
Since 2017 Golia has developed new projects that explore social networks and retain traces of prior circumstances. At Art Basel in 2017, he realized the kinetic sculpture The Painter, which featured a robot programmed to paint abstract geometric forms onto eight large canvases whenever movement in the exhibition space was detected. The resulting Basel Paintings (2017) retain visual evidence of the process of their own making. Such pieces document the negotiation between Golia’s vision and the various realities he has to deal with, whether in terms of physical space, practical logistics, or even the laws of the city in which he works.
Golia’s paintings and sculptures have entered esteemed public collections and have been exhibited at major international museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Witte de With, Rotterdam; and MoMA PS1, New York.
Extended through September 10, 2015
June 9–September 10, 2015
Models, Monuments, and Sculptures on Pedestals
February 28–April 17, 2014
4 rue de Ponthieu, Paris
Alexander Wolf explores the economic, social, and methodological concerns of Piero Golia’s art practice, revealing the real-world implications of the artist’s experiments with form and process.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.
Piero Golia: Intermission Paintings
Andrew Berardini reflects on Piero Golia’s Intermission Paintings, relics from the first phase of the artist’s three-part sculptural performance The Comedy of Craft.
Venice Family Clinic Art Walk
Benefit Auction 2021
April 28–May 12, 2021
Venice Family Clinic presents its annual benefit auction, a fundraising event whose proceeds will provide essential health care services to people in the community regardless of their income, immigration, or insurance status. Since its inception forty years ago, this charity event has raised more than $23 million. This year’s auction, hosted on Artsy, is honoring Mary Weatherford as the “signature artist” and features more than two hundred works by nationally recognized contemporary artists, including Piero Golia, Ed Ruscha, Robert Therrien, as well as Weatherford. To register to bid, visit artsy.net.
Mary Weatherford, Sunset, Western Cape, 2020 © Mary Weatherford. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
February 11–March 18, 2021
Dries Van Noten, Los Angeles
Piero Golia’s animatronic sculpture The Dog and the Drop (2013) is on view at the Little House, an exhibition space in the recently opened Dries Van Noten store in Los Angeles. Golia’s practice is heterogeneous and unpredictable, employing diverse mediums and methods to spark chain reactions that, even when they leave no objects or images behind, have the capacity to alter our perception.
Piero Golia, The Dog and the Drop, 2013 © Piero Golia
None of the Above
September 24–November 15, 2020
Kanal–Centre Pompidou, Brussels
For None of the Above, John Armleder invited artists to present a work of art that is either no bigger than a postage stamp or immaterial. Originally presented at the Swiss Institute in New York in 2004, this new staging of the exhibition forces visitors to search for the artworks in the form of a conceptual treasure hunt conceived by Armleder. Work by Piero Golia, Olivier Mosset, and Blair Thurman is included.
January 18–March 21, 2020
La Fondazione, Rome
This is the third and final performance of the Roman Trilogy, which premiered at Villa Medici–Académie de France à Rome in 2002, and was performed there again in 2016. In this work Piero Golia uses language, performers, music, fire, and more to expose the public to a “total work of art,” or Gesamtkunstwerk, an unforgettable experience. During the event, Golia will leave a “sign” on the floor of La Fondazione, which visitors can view through March 21, 2020.
Piero Golia’s performance of Roman Trilogy at Villa Medici–Académie de France à Rome, 2016. Artwork © Piero Golia. Photo: Sebastiano Luciano
Art and the Studio System
November 7, 2019–March 1, 2020
Yuz Museum, Shanghai
In Production: Art and the Studio System emphasizes the overlapping histories of visual art and film, with a particular focus on how the site of the studio, both in visual arts and in cinematic production, has radically shifted in the last twenty years. The exhibition highlights the exceptional gifts and acquisitions related to film and video that have entered the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection in recent years including work by Piero Golia, Douglas Gordon, Alex Israel, and Mike Kelley.
Douglas Gordon, Déjà-Vu, 2000 , installation view, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles. Artwork © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020 . D.O.A., 1950, USA. Directed by Rudolph Maté. Produced by Joseph H. Nadel, Harry M. Popkin, and Leo C. Popkin. Distributed by United Artists © Cardinal Pictures. Photo: Brian Forrest
Solutions to Mortality
January 20–April 1, 2018
Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas
Solutions to Mortality is the result of Piero Golia’s Grafly commission at the Ulrich Museum. This commission invites artists to respond to the museum’s large collection of artwork by Charles M. Grafly. For his exhibition Golia has placed three works in the sculpture park of the museum: a cast of George Washington’s nose copied from Mount Rushmore, an upside-down statue of Garibaldi, and a section of the wall that separates Los Angeles from Orange County.
Piero Golia, Solutions to Mortality (George Washington Nose), 2018. Photo by Manfredi Gioacchini