Iron plate and egg
22.04.06 | 04.11.06
Romieri Collection, Milan
A heavy, square metal sheet, capable only of absorbing light but not reflecting it, both supports a fragile egg and presents it for viewing: a white luminous point that stands out against the darkness of the armature-support that contains it. The image has immediate pictorial value and, at the same time, is conceptual. Kounellis is quoting the cold primary structures of American Minimalism, to then set up a silent, dramatic dialogue: between an industrial and durable material and one that is natural and easily perishable; between unyielding reason, imperturbable in its rigidity, and that single egg, which is the expression of a receptive biological sensibility (it absorbs and reflects external light) and a possibility of existing in space without dominating it. With the rotundity of its forms, earlier celebrated by Felice Casorati in the mute solitude of geometrically rigorous spaces (Uova sul cassettone, 1929, private collection), it unfailingly brings to mind the mysterious and surreal egg that Piero della Francesca suspends above the infant Jesus in his mother’s arms in the Montefeltro Altarpiece (1472-74, Milan, Brera).
When, in the 1980s, Kounellis returned to earlier works, reorganizing them into more complex configurations, this piece appeared mounted, off-center, above a larger sheet of metal, which seemed quite imposing compared to the small white egg (Galleria Ugo Ferranti, Rome, 1984; Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, 1986). In the group show Nuovi lavori, organized by Ugo Ferranti in Roma in 1985, however, it was seen in a subsequent evolution, now mounted above a metal sheet marked by the presence of three cuts sutured with tin and, in place of a real egg, there is one made of lead. Here, the confrontation/clash between structure and sensibility is resolved with the laceration of reason and the imperviousness of the body.
In Kounellis’s earliest works one can already glimpse this tension between a search for historic and poetic identity and a desire to break with the status quo by opening ...
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Modern Art Agency, Napoli, 1969; Galleria Ugo Ferranti, Roma, 1984; Städtische Galerie im Lembachhaus, Monaco, 1985; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1986; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal, 1987; Castello di Rivoli – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Torino, 1988; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1990; Nave Ionion, Porto del Pireo, Atene, 1994; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 1996; Osterreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 1999; Stedelijk Museum voor Aktuele Kunst, Gent, 2002; Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, 2001; Modern Arte Oxford, Oxford, 2004