Deep grief in the art world for Jannis Kounellis

We are saddened to hear about the passing of #JannisKounellis, 1936-2017, a pioneer of Arte Povera.
An Italian movement begun in the late 1960s, #ArtePovera artists opposed traditional aesthetic values and embraced commonplace materials. In the mid-1970s, Kounellis began creating installations that consist of pieces of statuary stacked in doorways or on tables and shelves. Here, the stone and plaster sculptures are recognizable as gods, goddesses, and warriors, but the precarious arrangement suggests a breakdown of cultural coherence. “Untitled” (1980) evokes the fragmentary state of post-World War II Europe.

Like the entire art world, above all the Italian one, I was shocked and saddened when on the evening of February 16th the first news broke about the passing away of Jannis Kounellis. The Greek artist arrived in Rome in 1956 to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and settled down in the city until his death. His way of revolutionizing art, leaving behind the traditional borders of painting was astonishing and defined new parameters in the arts from the start. The use of many kinds of “poor” material, from jute, stone, earth to fire was one of his ways to free art from convention and allowed him to become one of the main figures of the “Arte Povera” movement. 

An image that also remains impressive for people like me who will never have seen it  live, is the one of the horses which Kounellis exhibited at the garage gallery of Fabio Sargentini in 1969. The use of space and the participation of the viewer became the foundation of his fascinating installations which are meant to provoke and make people reflect. Kounellis remained so up-to-date, courageous, polyhedric and powerful in his aesthetic expressions with such a continuous output of high quality art that is impossible to ignore.

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