Arte Povera - Gallery 4

Explore works by Giovanni Anselmo, Jannis Kounellis, and Mario Merz.

At Borders (1989) by Mario MerzMagazzino Italian Art

At Borders is composed of a mesh screen stretched over a circular metal structure with a blue neon sign. The message “at borders” points to thresholds that divide a contiguous space into two different realms. The circular shape of the supporting structure evokes the Earth and the cosmos. The circle is an archetypal shape that represents the circularity of time in nature as well as endless rebirth.

With the neon sign, Merz breaks down the borders of the space. The work conveys the artist’s concept of his identity as a nomadic figure, who wanders and crosses borders, which represent limits, conventions, and traditions. The plural reference in the title evokes multiple transgressions of these arbitrary limits, as does the glow of the neon sign, whose light seems to exceed the structural limits of the tubing itself.

Untitled (1998) by Mario MerzMagazzino Italian Art

During the 1980s, Mario Merz created large-scale works on paper that blur the boundaries between painting and drawing. The animal imagery in Merz’s work forms a contemporary bestiary, imbued with symbolic meanings. In this drawing, the shape of the animal is cut out on black paper and attached to the translucent Folex. Numbers from the Fibonacci sequence appear in blue neon.

Light is a flow of vital energy for Merz. It spreads from inside to outside and from object to painting in a continuous metamorphosis. This metamorphosis is in turn linked to the Fibonacci sequence—a sequence in which each number is the sum of the two numbers that precede it. The series often refers to growth in nature. The numbers from the sequence that appear on the animal follow a circular path that traverses the animal and emanates energy onto it.

Untitled Untitled (2001) by Jannis KounellisMagazzino Italian Art

Jannis Kounellis’s works often convey a strong sense of the past, of universal cultural heritage, and personal memory. In this untitled work, an arrangement of books, blankets, and lamps on shelves suggest an attachment to the past. Books represent knowledge and culture; oil lamps symbolize enlightenment and revelation.

Despite his Greek nationality and experimentation with sculpture, Kounellis identified as an Italian painter. He transformed three-dimensional objects by placing them on flat surfaces hung on the wall, like paintings.

Untitled Untitled (1986) by Jannis KounellisMagazzino Italian Art

In this work, Jannis Kounellis reiterated his commitment to the practice of painting. An oil lamp is placed on a shelf is framed by square panel, which separates the object from the rest of the composition. It stands out as a symbol of enlightenment. The overall size of the two panels recurs in Kounellis’s work; it is the average size of a double bedframe, an intimate piece of furniture that reminds us of the space of human life.

For Kounellis, painting is related to verticality. He often takes objects that are otherwise intended to be placed on the floor and hangs them vertically on the wall. This painting depicts two flame-shaped splashes that function as indexes of the artist’s performed action and resonate with personal and political activities of revolution.

Direction Direction (1967) by Giovanni AnselmoMagazzino Italian Art

Giovanni Anselmo began producing conceptual artworks in the mid-1960s. His work explores the physical properties of matter, including gravity, oscillation, tension, inertia, equilibrium, weight, and movement. In this work from the Direzione series, the first examples of which were produced in 1967 and 1968, Anselmo carved a round hole in a rectangular block of granite, into which he placed a magnetic needle, creating a compass in the stone. The stone’s orientation in the gallery aligns with that of the needle’s northern direction—that is, in accordance with Earth’s magnetic field.

In every version of the work, wherever the exhibition space might be, Direzione thus points north. “I use stone,” said the artist, “because the universe is not just mass but also weight, and the stone interests me precisely because of its weight. The work begins in the place where it is, and ends where Earth’s magnetic fields are, the center of the planet.” The artistic expression lies not only in the visible presence of the stone but also in the invisible forces that the work visualizes, thus linking the here and now to the universal parameters affecting the human condition.

Untitled (Athena) (1979) by Jannis KounellisMagazzino Italian Art

In 1979, Jannis Kounellis was invited to create an exhibition at the Bernier Gallery in Athens. For the exhibition, he produced a site-specific work. Kounellis traced the ancient geometric pattern that decorated the floor of the gallery onto the wall. By transferring a horizontal design onto a vertical surface, the artist experimented with space, architecture, and the conventional space of painting.

The plaster cast of the head of the Apollo Belvedere (based on a Roman marble copy of the classical Greek bronze) on the top right corner symbolizes the artist’s memory of classical beauty. For the exhibition in Athens, the artist used fresh flowers. The combination of flowers and the plaster head expresses the artist’s concept of myth as a living memory of classical culture and nature.

Kounellis personally selected this wall at Magazzino for the installation of this work before his death in 2017.

From Continent to Continent From Continent to Continent (1993) by Mario MerzMagazzino Italian Art

Mario Merz’s work is particularly engaged in architectural images and of place, dwelling, and construction. The artist began constructing igloos in 1968. For Merz, impermanent structure that can be shifted from place to place. The form of the igloo was “the ideal organic shape, both a world and a small house, a synthesis, a complex image.” The hemispherical shape was central to the artist’s work.

Made of disconnected materials assembled with clamps, the igloo represents the artist’s view of himself as a nomad who always seeks new creative energy. The title of the artwork evokes the circularity of travel that from covers the surface of the Earth. Spelled out in neon tubing, the words of the title correspond in space to the four cardinal directions. The dark slate is a material that has been used in construction since ancient times. Its visual and material properties contrast with the neon, often used by the artist to “activate” the energy of the work of art.

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