Kounellis, who moved permanently to Rome at the end of the Fifties, emerged with large paintings in which he included words, letters, numbers, directional signs which stand out in relief on monochromatic surfaces, accommodating visual signals of the urban context within the compass of pictorial languages. From the end of the Sixties his analysis of the relationship between the structure of the artistic practice and the sensitivity of existence and of historical conscience expresses, with great lyrical pathos, the tension and the alienation of contemporary society and the fragmentation of the debate and of cultural production, leading
to an elaboration of a personal and revolutionary artistic language such as in
the famous work with twelve live horses in the L’Attico Gallery in Rome in 1969, and in the large installations which use natural elements or everyday objects like real people and live animals, stones, cactuses, flames, carded wool, powdered coffee, empty sacks or sacks filled with grit, fragments of copies of classical sculptures, oil lamps, iron shelves and railway tracks. In the installation specifically created for MADRE the room dedicated to this artist is blocked lengthwise by a large iron structure which allows the light to filter through monochromatic coloured glass, like a contemporary and critical version of the stained-glass windows of the great Gothic cathedrals and of the centrality of the role of art in their time.
A large rusted anchor weighs, also metaphorically, on the round, triggering off a sequence of references to the historical role of Naples’ position on the sea and to its representation in the history of art, and not just local art.
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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