Giuseppe Chiari was born in Florence in 1926.
He attended the liceo scientifico and enrolled in the faculty of engineering. It was only after some maths exams that he became interested in the arts in their broadest sense: architecture, literature, show business, music, fashion.
He took up the piano (which he has always thought of as the musical instrument par excellence, one which symbolizes conformist sound and subjection to precise construction laws) and in 1947, with Giampiero Taverna, created the group Amici del Jazz through which he organized concerts.
During the fifties, the artist was employed in various ventures. For fifteen years he worked in his mother's dressmaking business while studying musicology, and he composed his first piece: Intervalli.
He became increasingly involved in music, organizing conferences, conventions and concerts to spread the Musica Nuova, first with the composer Pietro Grossi with whom he founded the association Vita Musicale Contemporanea in 1961 (for artists and musicians keen on musical experimentation), and later with Gruppo 70 (founded by poets Eugenio Miccini and Lamberto Pignotti, Sergio Salvi and painters Antonio Bueno and Silvio Loffredo). With this group he has conducted research in Florence since 1963 on the visual value of texts. He considers a musical score not only 'as a basis for producing the sound of music, but also as a painting to look at, in which the notes and the representation of gestures become visual elements'.
1962 was the year of the musical exhibition-event Musica e Segno produced with Sylvano Bussotti and presented in Rome at the Galleria Numero, and on the other side of the ocean at the Creative and Performing Art Centre in Buffalo. This marked the beginning of Chiari's musical compositions based on signs and the written word.
In the same year, again with Bussotti, he presented the exhibition Gesto e Segno at the Galleria Blu in Milan.
During the sixties the artist made important contacts, most notably Metzger, who presented him to the international Fluxus group. Since 1962 he has taken part in the European Fluxus Festivals (Festspiele Neuester Musik of Wiesbaden). In 1962 he also made a performance of Gesti sul piano, based on sounds and pictures with musical notes accompanied by gestures, an integral part of the musical score: the result was art in the making. He shares the work relating to the musical improvisation group, MEV, Musica Elettronica Viva founded by the pianist Rzewski, a frequent performer of his work (Teatrino, 1963, at a world premiere at the Judson Hall in New York during the Avant-Garde Festival and Strimpellare, 1965).
During the late sixties the artist began a new phase of self-presentation in his artistic career. Abandoning his work as a composer, he strove, by means of his own active participation, to knock down the barriers between composer, player and listener; hence the creator, by using his own physical presence to communicate by gestures and self-representation, becomes a constitutional part of this opus.
'…The music, concerts, performances, scores (an aspect of his work is the 'graphic' dimension in that he works on the scores and produces manuscripts, large photographs, films, videos, objects he uses in his 'action-concerts') are operations carried out by an artist who recuperates techniques, sounds and language and turns them upside down to reveal their limits. The instruments used are 'instruments of dialogue'.
The artist began to work out various 'playing methods'; the piano, now no longer only responsible for the production of sounds, became an instrument-object which interacts with the body of the composer.
For five years Chiari worked as an editor for La Nuova Italia, contributing articles and musical scores to various magazines ('Letteratura', Rome; 'Collage', Palermo). Some of his writings after 1969 were collected in his books (Musica senza contrappunto; 1972, Senza titolo; 1973, Teatrino; 1974, Musica Madre). This work brought him increasing renown on the Italian and international scenes.
With his visual and musical activities, using gesture, sound, photocopies, sheets of paper, typographical print (easily-distributed materials, typical of Fluxus, for striking out at art, communication and institutional systems) and his 'visually innovative' instruments, he demolishes painting, music and poetry techniques.
From 1970 Chiari began to work with new methods of expression: collages on sheets of paper, on musical scores, musical instruments, planks of wood – and later added bright splashes of colour. Despoiled of their primary sound function, the objects take on a visual role with their own new special musicality.
During subsequent years the artist worked intensively on his compositions (Gesti sul piano, Galleria Toselli, Milan; Suonare la stanza, Galleria Schema, Florence, 1972; Suonare la città, Università di Architettura, Florence, 1973; Gesti sul piano. Performance, Kunstler Haus, Berlin, 1982; Concerto per Luce, Modern Art Galerie, Vienna; Universidad de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 1983; Gesti sul piano. Concerto per pianoforte, Fundaciò Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, 1994) and on statements, written with clear, sharp characters, using marker or ink on paper or canvas, which later became Conceptual Art.
Since the seventies he has exhibited intensively in private and public galleries with personal and collective exhibitions (Galleria Toselli, Milan; Kunstverein, Hanover, 1973; Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rome, 1980; Galleria Milano, Milan, 1986; Studio Oggetto, Milan, 1988 and 1992; Galleria Depardieu, Nice, 2005; Galleria Il Ponte, Florence, 2006) as well as in contemporary art museums (Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, 1973; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, 1979; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1993; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1994; Palazzo Fabroni, Pistoia, 2000 and 2004). He has also taken part in national and international events (Documenta 5, Kassel, 1972; Biennale di Venezia, various editions, 1972, ’76 - Attualità Internazionali 1972-76, ’78 Italian Section, ’84 - Arte, Ambiente, Scene; VIII Biennial Exhibition in Sydney, 1990), becoming the leading name in the languages of Fluxus and Conceptual Art.
In this regard mention should also be made of exhibitions in the Salone di Villa Romana (1983), the Galleria Vivita (1986) in Florence, the Centro Culturale S.Leucio (1987) in Caserta, the Galleria Chisel (1987) and the Galleria Rosa Leonardi (1988) in Genoa.
In 1989 he took part in the Fluxus Codex at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the following year in Ubi Fluxus ibi motus at the Antichi Granai of the Serenissima (Giudecca) in Venice.
In 1996 his exhibition Conceptual Music was staged at the Palazzo Rocca and Spazio Multimediale, formerly the Church of San Francesco in Chiavari.