'Lo faro il litterato tutta la vita'
Photo Lithography on rag paper
hand signed lower right in pencil: Kounellis
Provenance: The Collection of Ileana Sonnabend (Mrs Leo Castelli) & the Estate of Nina Castelli Sundell
I have seen this piece identified as being 1969 and I have seen it as 1972.
Jannis Kounellis (Greek: Γιάννης Κουνέλλης; 23 March 1936 – 16 February 2017) was a Greek Italian contemporary artist based in Rome. A key figure associated with Arte Povera, he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome.
Kounellis was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1936. He lived in Greece during the Second World War and Greek Civil War before he moved to Rome in 1956. From 1960 to 1966, Kounellis went through a period of only exhibiting paintings. In some of his first exhibitions, Kounellis began stenciling numbers, letters, and words onto his canvases, often reflecting advertisements and signs seen on the street. In 1960 he began to introduce found sculptural objects such as actual street signs into his work, exhibiting at Galleria La Tartaruga. This same year he donned one of his stencil paintings as a garment and created a performance in his studio to demonstrate himself literally becoming one with his painting. This newfound convergence of painting, sculpture, and performance was Kounellis' way out of traditional art. By 1961 he began to paint on newspaper to reflect his feelings towards modern society and politics. From 1963, Kounellis introduced found objects in his artworks, among them live animals but also fire, earth, burlap sacks, and gold. He replaced the canvas with bed frames, doorways, windows or simply the gallery itself. Kounellis' work from the 1980s, which also consisted of sculptures and performances using unusual materials, traveled all over Europe. In 1974, he performed with Edward Kienholz, Wolf Vostell and other artists in Berlin at the ADA – Aktionen der Avantgarde. His work has become integral to numerous renowned, international museums' collections.
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, Arte povera means literally ‘poor art’ but the word poor here refers to the movement’s signature exploration of a wide range of materials beyond the traditional ones of oil paint on canvas, bronze, or carved marble. Materials used by the artists included soil, rags and twigs.
Leading artists were Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio. They worked in many different ways. They
worked in painting, sculpture and photography and made performances and installations, creating works of large physical presence as well as small-scale gestures. 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.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1960: La Tartaruga gallery, Rome
1969: Attico Gallery, Rome
1981: Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
1982: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1988: Castle of Rivoli, Turin
1996: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
2005: Albertina, Vienna
2007: Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
2007: Kounellis - Jaffa Port, Jaffa, Israel
2009: Tate Modern, London
2012: Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens
2016: Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba
2016: Monnaie de Paris, Paris
2016: The Negev Museum of Art, Beersheva, Israel; curator Adachiara Zevi;
Arte Povera group shows
1967: 'Arte Povera – e IM Spazio', La Bertesca Gallery, Genoa
1968: 'Arte Povera', De Foscherari gallery, Bologna
1968: 'RA3 Arte povera + Azioni povere', Arsenali della Republica, Amalfi
1969: 'Live in Your Head: When Attitudes become Form', Kunsthalle, Bern
1969: 'Op losse schroeven: situaties en cryptostructuren' 1969 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1970: 'Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art', Galleria Civica d Arte Moderna, Turin
1982: 'Arte Povera, Antiform, Sculptures 1966–69', CAPC Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporains, Bordeaux
2001: 'Zero to infinity: Arte Povera 1962–1972', Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Kounellis has participated in many international exhibitions, including the Biennale of Paris (1971),Documenta (1972, 1977, 1982), the Venice Biennale (1972, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1993, and 2011), the Istanbul Biennial (1993), and the Biennale of Sydney (2008). His work has also been exhibited in many museums and institutions such as the Kunstmuseum in Bern, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and the Neue National gallery in Berlin. In 1994, Kounellis held an exhibition titled Ionion, in which he displayed his work on a boat docked in his town of birth in Piraeus, Greece. He later curated another exhibition that on another ship called Apollo in 1973 as an addition to "Ionion".
In October 2009, Kounellis exhibited many works at Tate Modern Gallery in London, United Kingdom. Jonathan Jones of The Guardian newspaper noted that his "Dry-stone walling, sacks of grain and rice, and a painting that includes part of the score of St John Passion by JS Bach, bring a sense of real life, organic and ancient, into the museum."
On 16 February 2017, Kounellis died at the Villa Mafalda hospital in Rome.
His estate is represented by Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York/Rome and Sprovieri, London.