New Jannis Kounellis Exhibition At Sprovieri

Sprovieri presents the fifth solo exhibition by Jannis Kounellis at the gallery. The show will present a single large installation that occupies the whole space of the main gallery. The installation piece was originally presented at Palazzo Vignola in Todi (Umbria) in August 2014. Art historian Rudi Fuchs discusses the formation of these esoteric works.

“Three or four summers ago, in a studio in Umbria, I saw him creating them – with men’s coats immersed in boiling tar. With an assistant he lifted each heavy coat (black, drenched, rumpled) from the cauldron and let it drop, with a smack, onto a metal plate over which white painter’s linen had been stretched. Then it was carefully lifted up and taken away. The remaining irregular form of the pitch-black blotch suggested that it had been made by a coat, but perhaps I saw that because I had witnessed the process.

Initially, the blotch was still wet. It trembled a bit but gradually began to dry, so that it became more rigid and a more matte black as well – absorbing more light and shining less. Kounellis spoke at that time about ombra, shade. In his imagination this is how he evokes the memory of dark shadowy light in the art of Caravaggio, whose obstinacy he recognises in himself. But there is something else: most of Caravaggio’s paintings are actually sparing compositions involving few figures, which seem huge because they have been placed in a measured pictorial space. In the work of Kounellis the dramaturgy is similarly restrained. The coats that he uses, for instance, express the scale of the human figure. The morphology here is vague, since the ensemble could just as easily be interpreted in a figurative manner: shadows of figures standing silently around a well, for instance, or around a grave.

The black coats are visually suggestive blotches of gloom. I say silently because they hang there so quietly and motionlessly, contemplatively in fact. With these austere means in which colour is restrained, that subdued atmosphere in this greyish black space has been just as meticulously orchestrated as the figures in a painting by Caravaggio.”

In 1967, Kounellis became associated with Arte Povera, a movement theorised by curator Germano Celant as a major shift from work on flat surfaces to installations. Kounellis was more interested in anarchical freedom from linguistic norms and conventional materials. The space of the gallery and the exhibition site in general were transformed into a stage where real life and fiction could join in a suspension of disbelief. This current installation by the esoteric septuagenarian Greek artist is on display at Sprovieri until Feb 7 2015.

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