1.7.4 Arte Povera (1960s-1970s)

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Artist’s Shit, Manzoni
Structure for Talking While Standing (Minus Objects), Pistoletto
Floor Tautology, Fabro

32 Square Meters of Sea, Pascali
Untitled (Sculpture that eats), Anselmo
Giap’s Igloo, Merz

While the Pop art movement was having great success, a group of Italian artists embarked on an entirely different intellectual journey – arte povera or ‘poor’ art. In their refusal to conceive artworks as products, these artists put into place new artistic practices that would inspire conceptual art. Arte povera aims to defy the cultural industry by creating artworks with “poor” materials, that have been rid of whatever trace of mass consumption culture. [Source: blog.artsper.com]


Artist’s Shit (No 4): Piero Manzoni was an Italian artist, something of a pre-cursor to arte povera. He is best known for his ironic approach to avant-garde art. His own work anticipated, and directly influenced, the work of a generation of younger Italian artists brought together by the critic Germano Celant in the first Arte Povera exhibition held in Genoa, 1967.

For this artwork ninety cans were produced, canned and labeled in an identical manner at the cannery his father owned, mocking the practices of mass production and consumption, and satirizing the reverence usually accorded to artist’s work. Importantly the audience is never able to conclusively know whether the cans actually contain the excrement without opening them and destroying the integrity of the piece. The cans were sold by the gallery at the then-market price of gold by weight in another provocative subversion of notions of value.
[Source: theartstory.org /Wikimedia commons]
Image source: phaidon.com
Artist’s Shit (No 4)1961Tin CanAbstract
Manzoni, Piero1933-1963, aged 29Italian artistArte Povera
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1740-11]

Tate Galleries

Image source: tate.org.uk
Structure for Talking While Standing (Minus Objects): Pistoletto is acknowledged as one of the main representatives of the Italian Arte Povera. His work mainly deals with the subject matter of reflection and the unification of art and everyday life in terms of a Gesamtkunstwerk.
[Source: tate.org.uk]
Structure for Talking While Standing (Minus Objects)1965=1966Iron, enamelAbstract
Pistoletto, Michelangelo 1933-Italian artistArte Povera
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1740-12]

Pistoletto Foundation, Biella, Italy
Floor Tautology: Luciano Fabro (November 20, 1936 – June 22, 2007) was an Italian sculptor, conceptual artist and writer associated with the Arte Povera movement.

This piece consists of an area of polished floor, marked off and covered with newspapers to dry, The newspaper becomes a form of frame for the clean floor allowing it to remain in pristine condition as if it were an oil painting. This placement questions notions of value through the attention paid to a usually overlooked aspect of a room (the floor and the marks made upon it), and it asks its viewers to reevaluate the processes and time that go into keeping a floor clean. It also implicitly asks that the audience invest in keeping it clean by not disturbing the newspapers.
[Source: joshmayneart.wordpress.com]

Image source: joshmayneart.wordpress.com
Floor Tautology1967Floor, newspapersAbstract
Fabro, Luciano1936-2007, aged 70Italian artistArte Povera
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1740-13]

Image source: ciiand.wordpress.com
32 Square Meters of Sea: Pino Pascali brings together the natural and artificial. The containers that make up the piece hold dyed water that replicate the variegated tints of the ocean, alluding to the effects of motion and light on open bodies of water. Yet the containers themselves with their rigidity and artificiality also remind its viewers of the ways that humanity attempts to control nature, and references the long history of artists’ attempts to represent and approximate it. Whilst each square of water is a shade found in nature (perhaps even one familiar to the viewer) the rapid transition between them suggests artificial reproduction, technological constraint and human intervention. The unnatural shape, perhaps deliberately referencing the notion that there are ‘no straight lines in nature’, adds to this sense of the uncanny or unnatural.
[Source: theartstory.org]
32 Square Meters of Sea1967Aluminum and zinc containers, colored water treated with anilineAbstract
Pascali, Pino1935-1968, aged 32Italian artistArte Povera
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1740-14]

National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome415 x 323
Untitled (Sculpture that eats): Giovanni Anselmo is an Italian artist that has contributed to the Arte Povera movement with his thought provoking sculptures. This work reflects Anselmo’s interest in combining organic and inorganic materials to pose metaphysical questions for the viewer.

It features a smooth granite block to which a smaller block is attached by a loose wire. Between them is a lettuce. If this is allowed to dry out there will be insufficient tension to keep the work together and the smaller block will drop. Therefore the work must be constantly renewed with new lettuce if it is to retain its integrity.

I, the world, things, life—we are points of energy, and it is not as necessary to crystallize these points as it is to keep them open and alive.
[Source: artnet.com / oxfordreference.com]

Image source: wikiart.org
Untitled (Sculpture that eats)1968Granite, copper wire, lettuceAbstract
Anselmo, Giovanni1934-Italian artistArte Povera
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1740-15]

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Image source: frieze.com
Giap’s Igloo: Mario Merz made his first igloo in 1968. Part of a group exhibition at Galleria Arco d’Alibert in Rome, it comprised a hemispherical steel structure, covered with plastic-wrapped blocks of clay. The igloo structure apparently came naturally to Merz: he had already built his first one before discovering that he was using the same construction techniques as the Inuit, after which he embraced the word to describe an ongoing series of works. This first igloo presented an Italian version of a quote, in neon, attributed to North Vietnam’s General Võ Nguyên Giáp: If the enemy concentrates his forces, he loses ground; if he disperses them, he loses strength. 
[Source: frieze.com]
Giap’s Igloo1968Metal tubing, wire mesh, neon tubing, dirt in bags, batteries, accumulatorsInstallation
Merz, Mario1925 – 2003, aged 78Italian artistArte Povera
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

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