Arte Povera - Gallery 5

Explore works by Gilberto Zorio, Giuseppe Penone, and Mario Merz.

Javelins with Handgrip Javelins with Handgrip (1978) by Gilberto ZorioMagazzino Italian Art

Since the 1970s, Gilberto Zorio has focused on images that express energy, as exemplified by the javelin. According to Zorio, the javelin represents mortal power. It is an instrument whose “design has been perfected through the millennia and has reached absolute beauty.”

The javelin represents a directional force that connects the space of display to the space where the viewer stands. The two javelins are suspended in a delicate balance between the wall and ceiling beam. Held together by the bronze handgrip, they trigger a subtle sense of danger that is typical of Zorio’s work.

The handgrip, modeled after the artist’s hand, is cast in bronze. For Zorio, human beings are made of energy. Actions liberate humans’ internal energy and allow for mutual connection. The tension of the artist’s hand represents action and projects his energy into the surrounding space.

Arbitrary Interpretation Project of One and More Works by G. Zorio (1973) by Gilberto ZorioMagazzino Italian Art

Gilberto Zorio’s two-dimensional works relate to his sculptures and installations. In this work, we find an inscription (and title of the work) near the center of the composition; it suggests that Zorio’s paintings are midway between “project” and “arbitrary interpretation.”

The work is a commentary on the recurring symbols and objects found in the artist’s oeuvre, including stars, javelins and nickel-chrome wire. The canvas resembles a dark room in which Zorio positions his symbols as luminous and fluorescent elements, flickering in reddish paint.

The thick layers of wax convey a sense of vibrant energy and fluid materiality, which have always been central to the artist’s treatment of forms and objects. The plaster cast of the artist’s face, with the star painted on the eye, alludes to the artist’s creative vision.

Painter in Africa Painter in Africa (1984) by Mario MerzMagazzino Italian Art

The structure of Pittore in Africa resembles a large painting as well as a screen or site of projection. The phrase written in neon light symbolizes the artist’s unrealized desire to travel to Africa. Merz identified to distance himself from systems of culture that were familiar to him.

Many European artists of the 1970s and 1980s were interested in travel, philosophies, and worldviews beyond Eurocentric models that were familiar to them. By imagining or learning more about parts of the world that were unknown to him, Merz hoped to find new sources for creativity.

Eyelid Eyelid (1989) by Giuseppe PenoneMagazzino Italian Art

The relationship between the human body and the external environment is central to Giuseppe Penone’s work. This work exemplifies Penone’s deep interest in our relationship to nature and in the intersections of sight and touch, senses through which we establish our contact with the world. The eyelid—palpebra, in Italian— conveys Penone’s concept of “contact.”

In this work, the artist experimented with his own body as medium. The process is detailed. First, Penone sprinkled pulverized charcoal on his eyelid and then removed it with tape, which preserved the charcoal and imprint of his skin. He then photographed the tape, enlarged the image, and projected it directly onto a cloth surface; he then traced the projected image with charcoal.

This process transforms the eyelid into an aerial map or oceanic surface, in which the small surface is expanded into a whole world. At the center of the work is a plaster cast of the artist’s face, stamped with an imprint of the artist’s thumb. The tactile quality of the thumbprint is associated with the artist’s body as well as with each person’s unique identity.

Star (1991) by Gilberto ZorioMagazzino Italian Art

A recurring image in Gilberto Zorio’s vocabulary since the early 1970s, the five-sided star or pentagram symbolizes powerful energy that is constantly in flux. Across history, a variety of meanings have been associated with the star—magical, mystical, alchemical and political.

The star contains the four elements of the universe: earth, water, air, and fire. At this scale, it also takes on the proportions of the human body with legs and arms outstretched, recalling the image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (c. 1490). The symbol of the star also relates to the tumultuous social context of the early 1970s, when it became associated with extreme left-wing and anarchist movements, such as the Brigate rosse (Red Brigades).

Through the choice of the star, the artist combined his own interest in visualizing energy with the political tensions in Italy at the time. The javelin expands the energy of the star into the physical space where the viewer stands. The light beam from the miner’s lamp evokes the shape of one of the star’s points.

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