Paolo Icaro Chissotti was born in Turin in 1936.
He studied music and in 1955 enrolled in the Faculty of Letters of the University of Turin. In 1958 he left university and began to practice sculpture in the studio of Umberto Mastroianni. In 1960 he moved to Rome, where in 1962 he held his first one-man show at the Galleria Schneider. In 1964 he won the Ministry for Foreign Trade award at the IIIrd Ceramic Art Biennale of Gubbio. In 1965 he was invited to the IXth Quadriennale of Rome.
In 1966 he moved to New York, where he lived until 1968. In Usa he created the Forme di spazio (Forms of space, 1967), immediately afterwards renamed Gabbie (Cages), metal structures where the sculpture, instead of occupying space, becomes the place, the origin of that space. In 1967 he held a one-man show at the Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome and was invited by Germano Celant to participate in the exhibition Arte Povera Im-Spazio at the Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa, the town where he went to live on his return to Italy. In 1968 he held a one-man show at the Galleria La Bertesca, whose title Faredisfarerifareevedere (Doing-undoing-redoing-seeing) typifies his artistic attitude. “Icaro explores space, a space to be tested with the body, to be measured physically and mentally, to be sought in the development of time; a space to be recounted, where planned and chance events, sacral intimacy and subtle irony are blended, leading to a continuous Doing-undoing-redoing-seeing of form and thought” (Lara Conte).
Between 1968 and 1969, he participated in the main exhibitions of the international avant-garde, where trends such as Arte Povera, Conceptual Art and Process Art made their reputations. In fact he created actions in the Teatro delle mostre, Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome (1968) and in Arte Povera più Azioni Povere, Amalfi (1968). He was also invited to Op Losse Schroeven. Situaties en cryptostructuren held at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1969) and to When Attitudes Become Form, curated by Harald Szeemann at the Kunstahalle, Bern (1969).
In 1971 he again moved to the United States, to Connecticut, where he remained for the whole of that decade. During the 1970s he created cycles of work such as I luoghi del punto (Places of the point) and Le misure intime (Intimate measurements), measurements of the body created with different sculpting materials. At this time he started to use plaster, a material which acts on time, preserving the imprint of the rapid gesture which has shaped it. “Alone – or combined with stone, glass, wood, lead, paper – […], plaster becomes for him a material of excellence, able to express different plastic states (smoothness, shagginess, solidity, fluidity), their tension and energy” (Mario Bertoni).
At the beginning of the 1980s he moved back to Italy for good. In 1982 he had a one-man show at the PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan; in 1987 at the Palazzina dei Giardini, Modena, presented by Dore Ashton and Pier Giovanni Castagnoli.
During the 1970s and 1980s he held numerous one-man shows in important European and American galleries, including: Verna, Zurich (1972, 1974, 1978, 1985); Françoise Lambert, Milan (1976); Marilena Bonomo, Bari (1976); Massimo Minini, Brescia (1977, 1982, 1989); Paul Maenz, Cologne (1978), Hal Bromm, New York (1978, 1979); Jack Tilton, New York (1985, 1986, 1989).
In 1990 a monograph edited by Mario Bertoni was published (Essegi, Ravenna). In 1995 Danilo Eccher curated an anthological show of his work at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Contemporanea, Trento.
During the 1980s he was invited to participate in numerous collective exhibitions: Arte italiana degli ultimi quarant’anni. Materiali anomali (Italian Art of the last 40 years. Anomalous materials), Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna (1997); Au rendez-vous des amis. Identità e opera (At the rendez-vous of friends. Identity and work), curated by Bruno Corà at the Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato (1998); Immagini. Arte italiana dal 1942 ai nostri giorni (Images, Italian Art from 1942 to the present day), curated by Fabrizio D’Amico, at European Central Bank, Frankfurt (2000).
In 2006 he took part in the exhibition Museo Museo Museo. 1998-2006 Duecentocinquanta nuove opere per la GAM (Museum Museum Museum. 1998-2006 Two hundred new works for the GAM), curated by Pier Giovanni Castagnoli at the Torino Esposizioni show, where the body of new works purchased in 2005 by the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM) of Turin was exhibited. In October 2007 he was invited by Luigi Ballerini to create a permanent work for the Italian Department of UCLA (the University of California in Los Angeles). He took part in numerous collective shows including Time & Place: Milano-Torino. 1958-1968, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero (2008) and Italics. Arte italiana fra tradizione e rivoluzione 1968-2008 (Italics. Tradition and Revolution in Italian Art, 1968-2008) curated by Francesco Bonami (2008-2009).
In 2010 he was presented by Massimo Minini in the section Back to the future of Artissima, where he proposed Gabbia Pliniominio (Pliniominio Cage). In 2011 he exhibited the installation Cardo e decumano (Cardo and decumanus (2010) in the Courtyard of Palazzo d’Accursio, Bologna, in the Art First show.
Some of his most significant one-man shows of the last few years are: Modalità (Methods), Lorenzelli Arte, Milano (2006-2007); Faredisfarerifarevedere (Doing-undoing-redoing-seeing), curated by Mario Bertoni, Art and Culture Centre, San Paolo Church, Modena (2008); Le pietre di marmo (The marble stones), curated by Giorgio Bonomi (2008); Biografia ideale (Ideal biography), curated by Ludovico Pratesi, Visual Arts Centre, Pescheria, Pesaro (2009); 15 Stele 15 (15 Stelae 15), curated by Lara Conte, Parma, Galleria Niccoli (2010); Su misura (Made to measure), curated by Lara Conte and Mauro Panzera, Galleria Il Ponte, Florence (2011); I do as I did, Lorenzelli Arte, Milan (2011); You, Space, Camec, La Spezia; Paolo Icaro. 1967-1997, Galleria P420, Bologna, curated by Lara Conte; Living in America: sculptural events in Woodbridge, Galleria Studio G7, Bologna, curated by Martin Holman.
He lives and works in Tavullia in the province of Pesaro.