I first saw Jannis Kounellis work in London, at Tate Modern and naturally, I was proud that a Greek contemporary artist has a room dedicated to his work, on the 5th floor of one of the best Modern Art Museums in the world. Jannis Kounellis, one of the most important artists of the Arte Povera movement, is exhibiting his new and site specific work at the Stathatos Mansion of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens starting April 5th. Of course, I was there yesterday at the opening and I can tell you the experience is powerfully affecting and extremely theatrical. I was speechless…
Kounellis was born on March 23, 1936 in Piraeus, Greece and he moved to Rome aged 20. In 1963, he introduced found objects in his paintings, among them live animals but also fire, soil, burlap sacks, and gold. He replaced the canvas with bed frames, doorways, windows or simply the gallery itself. In 1967, Kounellis joined the Arte Povera movement of Germano Celant. In 1969, he exhibited real horses in the galleria L’Attico.
He studied in art college in Athens until 1956 and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome.
Kounellis has recently been honored with major exhibitions at Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome (2002), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina in Naples (2006), and Neue National Galerie in Berlin (2008), among others.
“My focus is to present, not to represent,” Kounellis has said. No matter how complex or unfathomable the works may seem, their elements remain irreducibly simple. A dozen black overcoats hanging on hooks exceed the obvious anthropomorphism – garments as people – to evoke some distant age of dignified men going to their deaths.
Repetition has gradually become his modus operandi. Not the exact reproduction of one work, however, but, rather, the conception of each separate piece as a kind of chorus, reiterated over and again, to the larger elegy of his work.
Kounellis is always faithful to his repertoire of uningratiating materials such as empty bottles, stones and coal!
Just so you know… he started out as a painter.
I admire Jannis Kounellis for his overwhelmingly dramatic style and haunting configurations like meat hooks, knifes and used clothes. He has found a way of rearranging his repertoire of objects differently in each location to maximise the emotional impact. Jannis Kounellis, at 76, remains the patriarch of an Italian art movement arte povera and along with Lucas Samaras they are the two most important Greek contemporary artists that have an extremely successful worldwide career. You should not miss this amazing exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens!!!!
Have a lovely Day!!!