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Jannis Kounellis

b. 1936, Greece

Untitled, 1984

Steel, metal, painted wood and wax

98.8 x 155.3 x 15 cm

Early on in his artistic career, Jannis Kounellis felt that the conventions of European aesthetics were insufficient to encapsulate the erratic and fragmented nature of a postwar contemporary society. Consequently, his works moved towards a steadily more fragmented and architectural direction. Using organic and industrial materials, his works poetically conveyed the increasingly confrontational interplay between nature, culture, and the constructed environment.

The elements of metal, wood, and wax used in this work are among his established repertoire of materials, acting as a stylistically identifiable marker across the various assemblages that he created. Allegories can be drawn to society and its environment through this fusion of the organic and inorganic, reflecting Kounellis’ fascination with the role of humanity in the creation and consumption of art.

Jannis Kounellis (b. 1936, Greece; d. 2017, Italy)

Jannis Kounellis was a Greek postwar artist who dabbled in various artistic mediums throughout his career, including painting, performance art, collages, and sculptures and assemblages. He moved to Italy in 1956, immersing himself in his new homeland’s rich art history and art ecosystem. Though he was brought up in Greece, he considered his artistic practice to be Italian at heart. He would become one of the main proponents and an emblematic figure of the Italian Arte Povera movement of the 1960s, and his practice would subsequently become increasingly experimental and architectural in nature, as he explored the relationship between art, its components, and humanity itself.

Kounellis graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti, and his works have been exhibited globally in institutions including Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome (2002), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina in Naples (2006), and Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (2008).

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