Jannis Kounellis in Be'er Sheva
December 15 2016 - March 3 2017
Guest Curator: Adachiara Zevi
For the exhibition at the Negev Museum of Art, Kounellis has created an original project on site. Fascinated by the sight of desert stones and their different sizes, shapes and colours, he decided to put them at the centre of his new installation. The idea was to link them up using a thick rope, like those used by sailors, to create a chain which, running along the boundaries of the floors, could unify the two levels of the museum.
Born in 1936 in Pireus, Greece, Kounellis is part of the artistic generation which, at the beginning of the 1960s, started to question the validity of painting as the only possible dimension for art.
He aimed to work directly and freely in real space and to use in his art materials taken from everyday life such as stones, ropes, cupboards, chairs, as well as living things such as animals and plants. Untitled (1967) featured a parrot on a perch projecting from the middle of an iron plate hung on a wall, while Untitled (1969), one of his best-known works, consists of the installation of 12 living horses in the Rome gallery L’Attico.
These materials, different for every context which he happened to deal with, were meant to express the link of the exhibition to the place and to the people. Visitors would have recognised the art work as part of their life and context.
Thus for Kounellis every exhibition became a wonderful and unpredictable adventure, impossible to be planned in advance.
He arrived in Be'er Sheva with his “hands in his pockets”, as he says, that is with no ideas or project beforehand. It was only after he had seen the space of the museum and visited the Negev with friends that he decided what to do. First came stones and ropes, symbol of unity and solidarity, then the bed, the chairs and the cupboard, all found in the local shops and flea markets; common objects that allow visitors to feel at home and give the whole installation a human scale.
With the artists belonging to the “Arte Povera”, the movement founded in 1967, the first contemporary Italian art movement to be recognized at international level, Kounellis shared the use of diverse materials taken from everyday life, the union of political and aesthetic ideals and the conception of the role of the artist in society.
Kounellis is the Italian artist who has most frequently exhibited in the most important museums world-wide. He has taken part in seven editions of the Venice Biennale, from 1972 onwards, and in Documenta in Kassel in 1972 and 1982. This is his second exhibition in Israel, after the one in 2007 in the Jaffa Port Hangar.
The exhibition in Be'er Sheva was sponsored by the Italian Embassy, the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv and Har-El Printers & Publishers, Jaffa.