Jannis Kounellis  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jannis Kounellis (23 March 1936 – 16 February 2017) was a Greek Italian contemporary artist based in Rome. He studied in art college in Athens until 1956 and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome.

Arte povera

In 1967, Kounellis became associated with arte povera, a movement theorized by curator Germano Celant as a major shift from work on flat surfaces to installations. Kounellis participated in the exhibition 'Arte Povera – e IM Spazio' at the La Bertesca Gallery in Genoa curated by Celant, which brought together artists whose work was concerned with the space between art and life, and nature and culture. Examples of artists who substantiated this basis of arte povera as a movement include Alighiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali and Emilio Prini. To solidify the movement, Celant curated yet another group show, 'arte povera', which was exhibited at the De' Foscherari gallery in Bologna in 1968 with similar artists; . In the same year Kounellis exhibited 'Senza titolo (Untitled)', which consisted of raw wool, rope and a wooden structure all leaning against a wall. Finally, Kounellis was also included in 'RA3 arte povera + Azioni povere' which was organized by Marcello Rumma and curated by Celant.

In 1967, Kounellis installed "live birds in cages along with rose-shaped, cloth cut-outs pinned to canvas" alongside his painting. Through this shift in his work, "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." The viewers became part of the scene of these living natural sources of energy within the gallery space. He continued his involvement with live animals later in 1969, when he exhibited twelve living horses, as if they were cars, in the Galleria l'Attico's new location in an old garage in Via Beccaria. Gradually, Kounellis introduced new materials, such as propane torches, smoke, coal, meat, ground coffee, lead, and found wooden objects into his installations. He also looked beyond the gallery environment to historical (mostly industrial) sites. In 1997, Kounellis installed thirteen wardrobes and two doors that were sealed in lead along a scaffolding ledge that blocked the entry to a central hall. In 1968, in an interview by Marisa Volpi, Kounellis stated that incidental adjustments are certain as aspects that can indicate the human liberty of life





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