Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 2006. Iron plates, white fabric, two bed frames, steel hooks, black fabric, two I-beams, two coats, 200 x 360 cm. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York.
From here

This weekend, I found myself in a rare situation where artists liked and unliked were discussed, offered up and discussed. This was something I did in perpetuity as a student but do not do enough as an adult, so I figured I'd make mention here of one I really like - Greek arte povera artist Jannis Kounellis. He's one of those guys who enjoyed a heyday in the 80's when I first started studying art, often featured in enigmatic gallery ads in Artforum, whose name has slipped a bit from public consciousness. His art, comprised largely of steel and sheets and rope and famously, horses

Jannis Kounellis, exhibition of twelve horses in the Galleria L'Attico, Rome in 1969
From here

no doubt greatly informed that of Damien Hirst as did the whole boho shamble of arte povera speak to the YBA generation involuntarily orbiting Hirst.

What the arte povera guys had that the YBA's were largely missing however, was that touch of class. Kounellis' work is unabashedly industrial in form, culled together from scraps pulled tight by ropes, rivets and gravity, but there is a breathlessness in his work that sharply contrasts from the clinical beauty that can be found in Hirst. His work is grand and heroic, not only in its form and intent, but in its radiance. It is rough and conceptual and possibly political and highly personal, yet it transcends the making of the art, knowing the artist. In this interview in Flash Art, the artist had this to say on the subject:
AB: Among contemporary artists, which seem to you to be the most interesting?
JK: A living artist is not necessarily a contemporary artist. I love the artists drawn to adventure, to renewal, those that do not ever accept evidence or obligatory data. This takes courage. Before, I spoke of Pollock and Kline because in them there is no sign of weakness. In certain cases, this pushes them so far as to risk their lives. If you are weak or fragile as an artist, your weight diminishes and becomes interchangeable and decorative. On an intellectual level, in general, work that is born from a weak area is intrinsically negative, in the sense that you are driven to accept compromises.

Jannis Kounellis, UNTITLED, 2006. Found wooden tables, bowl, knife, red fish
32 x 172 x 179 inches 81.3 x 436.9 x 454.7 centimeters CR# KO.13218
From here

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