Sunday, August 04, 2019

Venice: Not Only Biennale - Ca Corner della Regina – Fondazione Prada – Jannis Kounellis

Ca Corner della Regina – Fondazione Prada
Jannis Kounellis

 At the Fondazione Prada, until November 24, Jannis Kounellis, curated by Germano Celant, is the major retrospective dedicated to the artist following his death in 2017. Developed in collaboration with Archivio Kounellis, the project brings together more 60 works from 1959 to 2015. The show explores the artistic and exhibition history of Jannis Kounellis (Piraeus 1936 – Rome 2017), establishing a dialogue between his works and the eighteenth-century spaces of Ca’ Corner della Regina. Kounellis participated in exhibitions that paved the way to Arte Povera, which in turn translated into an authentic form of visual expression. An approach that recalls ancient culture, interpreted according to a contemporary spirit, in contrast with the loss of historical and social identity that took place during the postwar period.

Senza Titolo – coat, hats shoes – 2011

Germano Celant
The artist’s early works, originally exhibited between 1960 and 1966, deal with urban language. These paintings reproduce actual writings and signs from the streets of Rome. Later on, the artist transferred black letters, arrows and numbers onto white canvases, paper or other surfaces, in a language deconstruction that expresses a fragmentation of the real.

Senza Titolo – oil on canvas -1960
Senza Titolo – bottles plywood -1959

Senza Titolo – 1969

Jannis Kounellis

 Photograph and copyright Manfredi Bellati

Senza Titolo - iron – newspaper, wool, wood – 1987
The spectacular large-scale installations, realized in the exhibition by Kounellis from the end of the 1980s, whose ensembles envelop shelves or metal constructions containing objects of various origins: from musical instruments to sacks, from plaster casts to stones, from coats to glasses, from mechanical gears to fragments of furniture.  

Senza Titolo – iron, stones, cloth, steel, burlap, coal, wool, sewing machines, coats, marble, ceramic – 2013

Senza Titolo – Iron enamel – 1994

  Photograph and copyright Manfredi Bellati

The large room of the second floor hosts an intervention from 1993-2008 made up of different colored closets and forms hanging from the ceiling. Conceived for the first time for the spaces of Palazzo Belmonte Riso in Palermo, the work challenges the laws of gravity and, through the series of casually opened doors, seems to imitate the impossible perspectives of baroque painting.

Senza Titolo

Senza Titolo – lead rolls – 2004

Senza Titolo – iron shelves, bags, plaster – 1999 - detail

An investigation into the olfactory, which began in 1969 with coffee, continued through the 1980s with elements like grappa, in order to escape the illusory limits of the painting, embrace the world of the senses and join with the virtual chaos of reality.

Senza Titolo – iron, coffee – 2013

I have always been fascinated by music.  I played the violin when I was very young. I began with a one-quarter violin so I really must have been very young.  I later gave it up, but the image of the violin has always remained in my mind’s eye and I use it everywhere.”

The two works from 1980 and 2006, composed of musical instruments connected to gas cylinders and wrought iron bells, are ideally connected to two works dated 1971. In the first case, several flutists play a fragment of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion, while in the second an oil painting portrays the notes of another sacred composition by Bach, this time played live by a violoncellist. With these two operations, Kounellis renews the sacred dimension of music connected to the myth of Orpheus, which attributes the ability to convert inert objects into living things to music, thus placing it in opposition to death.

Senza Titolo

These works substitute or connect the image with sound, overcoming the traditional distinctions between artistic languages. The repetition of musical fragments and the physical presence of musicians allow the artist to explore once again the corporeal dimension of the work, as well as the sharing of a conceptual and sensorial experience between the author and the viewer.

Senza Titolo

Senza Titolo – table, bells – 2006

Throughout his artistic research Kounellis develops a tragic and personal relationship with culture and history, avoiding a refined and reverential attitude. He would eventually represent the past with an incomplete collection of fragments, as in the work from 1974 made up of portions of plaster casts of classical statues laid out on a table and accompanied by a lit paraffin lamp. Meanwhile, in other works the Greco-Roman heritage is explored through the mask, as in the 1973 installation made up of a wooden frame on which plaster casts of faces are placed at regular intervals. This wooden support encloses a canvas that evokes a theatrical space in which the mask, according to Greek tradition, establishes the role and identity of the character, defining its origins and destiny.

Senza Titolo

At the height of the mutation and sublime result of combustion, according to alchemical tradition, we find gold, employed by the artist in multiple ways. In the installation Untitled - Tragedia Civile - 1975, the contrast between the gold leaf that completely covers a bare wall and the black clothing hanging on a coat hanger underlines the dramatic nature of a scene that alludes to a personal and historical crisis. It is a self-portrait of the artist, here sacrificed and therefore absent, expressing the suffering of an existential and creative condition. A division between past and present that still retains some hope of coming back together again, as the presence of the lit acetylene lamp suggests.

Senza Titolo – Tragedia Civile  
gold-leaf-coated wall, coat rack, coat, hat, gas lamp – 1975

Senza Titolo – hat, golden leaves - 1972

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