Jannis Kounellis -Senza titolo, 1987. Institute of Contemporary Arts, Nagoya. Foto Claudio Abate

Jannis, the Greek
Seventy works retrace his creative career from 1958 to 2016

 

MASKS AND CASTS OF CLASSICAL STATUES
REVEAL THE ABSOLUTE AND TIMELESS
ARTISTIC SOUL OF THIS AUTHOR

 

“I belong to an ancient world.” This statement by Jannis Kounellis seems to be at odds with what appears to be his personal commitment to pursue anti-aesthetic solutions or tendencies. Yet, he felt in debt with the worthy artistic tradition of Greece, his country of birth; in addition to this, he also felt in tune with the refined Classicism of Rome, the city that welcomed him when he was just a young man. So, how can we interpret his art? A large retrospective running at Ca’ Corner della Regina in Venice until November 24 tries to do exactly this.

 

IN ADDITION TO SIGHT, SOME OF HIS
WORKS ALSO INVOLVE TOUCH
SMELL AND EVEN HEARING

 

The exhibition, which takes place two years since the artist’s death, is curated by Germano Celant and organised by Fondazione Prada. The show gathers seventy works that retrace Kounellis’s whole creative career, from 1958 to 2016. The works come from prestigious Italian and international museums and galleries – including Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Rivoli Castle in Italy, Museum Boijmans Van Beruningen in Rotterdan, and the Walking Art Center in Minneapolis – and important private collections.

IT IS WASY TO GRASP HIS ASPIRATION
TO CROSS THE LIMITS OF THE CANVAS
IN ORDER TO ENTER THE VITAL CHAOS OF REALITY

 

His early compositions feature the writings, signs and signposts that crowd the streets of Rome, whereas later works consist in canvases and paper sheets with letters, arrows, and numbers the artist drew on them. Since 1967, Kounellis’s artistic research has been incorporating tangible elements, from stuffed birds to charcoal bags and fire (for instance, the so-called “Daisy of Fire”). In addition to touch, smell is involved in his works as well; in 1969 he diffused the aroma of toasted coffee, whereas some works from the ’80s smell of grappa. In this way Kounellis crossed the illusory limits of the canvas to enter the vital chaos of reality; thus, he opened up to a dialectical conflict between fickle lightness and concrete heaviness. Moreover, two works (dated 1980 and 2006, respectively) are made up of musical instruments Kounellis attached to gas tanks and wrought-iron bells, so to renew the sacred function of music and to establish a link with the redeeming myth of Orpheus. His works also evoke the idea of myth and the greco-roman cultural heritage through such elements as masks and casts of classical statues, which take on the role of embedded memories, just like recurring thoughts. To show us a Janis Kounellis in his absolute and timeless dimension.

 Luciano Caprile

JANNIS KOUNELLIS
FONDAZIONE PRADA
CA’ CORNER DELLA REGINA
VENICE
CURATED BY
GERMANO CELANT
11/05 – 24/11

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