Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects.

Jannis Kounellis, who has died aged 80, made a highly distinctive contribution to one of the most provocative artistic movements in postwar Europe. Associated with Arte Povera since the 1960s, Jannis Kounellis investigates the alienation inherent in contemporary society, juxtaposing the materials of mass urban and industrial civilization with symbols and values of the pre-industrial world.

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects. Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you2

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects. Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you3

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects. Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you4

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects. Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you5

Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis bl private collection 750

Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you7

Incorporating humble non-art materials such as cotton, wool, coal, grain sacks, glass bottles, meat hooks, fire, soot, smoke, bed-frames, doors, shelves, and clothing, Kounellis’ work is a melodramatic mixture of installation, environment, performance, and theatrical show. In a 1971 painting that explores the relationship between history and contemporary experience, Kounellis reproduced a score from Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion, intending that a cellist must play the music alongside the painting in order to fully “activate” the image. In later work, Kounellis presents objects rather than making them; for a 2011 exhibition in Beijing, Kounellis arranged 4,600 shot glasses filled with erguotou, a Chinese grain alcohol.

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Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you9

Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you10

Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you11

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Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you12

Jannis Kounellis was a pioneer of the arte povera movement who created spectacular contemporary sculptures out of mundane objects. Contemporary sculptures Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis Contemporary sculptures by Jannis Kounellis arts and crafts I Lobo you13

Kounellis’s feeling for antiquity is perhaps unsurprising. Born in Piraeus, the port of Athens, son of Gregory and Evangelia Kounellis, he emigrated to Rome at the age of 20, after initially studying art in Athens. His move was supported by his father, who had spent the second world war in the Greek resistance and then himself left for the US, where he worked as a mechanic. Like his predecessor Giorgio de Chirico, also active in Italy but born in Greece, Kounellis had a complex Mediterranean identity: for him his native land was more, he said, “an opinion” than a place. He rarely went home to Greece, and for many years his only show in Athens was a performance in a taverna as Apollo, to the accompaniment of a flute.
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