Jannis Kounellis was a central figure of Arte Povera, a movement characterized by the use of everyday materials that proposed a radically new approach to arts and life. Kounellis has put painting into a new territory using materials such as coal, steel, coffee beans, found furniture, clothes, fire, and living animals, in an attempt to redefine not only art, but foremost our attitude towards it. In this regard Untitled (2008) is one of the rare occurrences since the late 1960s where Kounellis actually uses painting, yet of course breaking with the conventional process. A black coated canvas - the backside of which, left blank, shows in the folds - is resting on a metal rod affixed around a double sheet of steel. It evokes Malevich's Black Square and questions the end game of modern painting. This work was created for an exhibition in Santiago de Compostela, a city charged with spiritual enlightenment which translated into Kounellis' works through religious symbols: nails, crosses and shells that imbued the space with an elegiac melancholy. The black canvas let us think of a cere cloth, a piece of heavy linen coated with wax designed to protect the altar in the Christian liturgy. The contrast between the metal background and the canvas in terms of weight, texture and shape results in a palpable tension that emanates from the work, infusing the room with a pervading darkness.
Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017) was born in Piraeus, Greece. He spent most of his life in Rome, Italy, where he moved at the age of 20. His work has been widely exhibited around the world, most recently at the Fondazione Prada, Venice (2019), the Monnaie de Paris (2016), the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo (2016) and the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2012). His work is included in major public collections such as Kunstmuseum Bonn; K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid and Tate, London. #kewenig12rooms
Press release courtesy KEWENIG.