In June 1985 Pistoletto showed a group of works at the Galleria Persano in Turin. Entitled Fourth Generation [Quarta generazione], their surfaces and volumes were painted in dark and gloomy colors that swallowed up light like a sort of black hole. In a text published in the catalogue under the title “Poetica dura” [“Hard Poetics”], the artist used the expression “art of squalor” ["Arte dello squallore"] to refer to these works. They consisted of a series produced between 1985 and 1989 using large blocks of polyurethane like the ones he had utilized for the sculptures produced over the previous five years, which had mostly been covered with canvas and painted. The artist would often use the expression “anonymous material” to describe these works and speak of them as of works that were located in an undefined field somewhere between painting and sculpture. In the exhibition “Immagine”, held at the Galleria Pieroni in Rome in 1989, Pistoletto would present, in the form of photographic reproductions on large wooden panels, the images of some of these works that had been shown in various places in the preceding years, in particular the ones exhibited in a retrospective held at the PS1 in New York in 1988.
“Art of squalor, parasitic art, art of mortification. Surface of desolation, obtuse surface. A repulsive art that represents nothing. [...] Mass of triturated ideas, of pulverized objects, of meanings that are smashed, rotten, softened, and compressed. Fragments of instruments and concepts; stellar dust, cosmic foam, meteorite lava, sidereal ice. Fountains of jets of grayishness. Idiotic thicknesses of a crushed and dribbled art, as arduous as childbirth. Weightless art without instruments. But filthy like the swarming of a disgusting humanity. A grave and cowardly art that achieves the maximum distance and maximum slowness without being grazed by infinity or immobility. The motion is slow like the catastrophic motion of the universe. The slowness of vast distances replaces the swiftness of approaching movement, the violence of transformation, the speed of change in the approached distances. It is the perception of contemporaneity beyond time/space.”
(M. Pistoletto, Poetica dura, catalogue of the exhibition, Galleria Giorgio Persano, Turin, 1985)