Jannis Kounellis brings back perennial appeal of arte povera at Parasol Unit London

By Mark Sheerin | 15 November 2012
Black and white photo of a toy train spiraling up or down the pillar of a gallery
'Untitled', 1977. Iron spiral, miniature train© Courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Paolo Mussat Sartor
Exhibition preview: Jannis Kounellis, Parasol Unit, London, 28 November 2012 – 17 February 2013

One of London’s most pristine white spaces could soon find itself sullied by the inexpensive raw materials of Jannis Kounellis, a key member of the Italian Arte Povera movement.

Along with artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto and Pino Pascali, the Greek sculptor flew in the face of boom years in his adopted homeland, by working with less saleable materials and less slick forms than the previous trend for minimalism.

Kounellis, who at 76 has outlived most of his cohorts, is perhaps the best known of the loose affiliation of artists who made work under the umbrella term. And indeed, he may never be forgotten for installing, or rather stalling, 12 horses in a Rome gallery in 1969.

Arte Povera emerged from a decade of economic growth in Italy; but the same can hardly be said of the context which Europe finds itself in today. Visitors to Parasol Unit will be able to judge for themselves whether burlap sacking and coal are still symbols for our age, or if their humble presence will compound our misery.

Nevertheless, Kounellis has demonstrated enduring appeal with shows at both Tramway in Glasgow and Ambika P3 in London in recent years. This time round he is showing scultpures both old and new, most likely poor, but rich in association.
  • Admission free. Open 10 am–6 pm Tuesday to Saturday (12pm–5pm Sunday).
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