Jannis Kounellis, a pioneer of Arte Povera, has never made a basement look as elegant as he has today.
In Arte Povera, the theatricality of the work is of the utmost importance; any resulting art objects are merely by-products of this performative element. After a career that spans several decades, Kounellis’s work still preserves a certain 'Aliention Effect', engaging the viewer at an almost exclusively theatrical level.
Entering the gallery from the ground floor the viewer is immediatly confronted by a giant steel “K”. Once beside the structure one can observe how the piece was constructed using wine bottles, coal, burlap and cables. It is a monumental work, as are many of Kounellis’s pieces.
The work pushies the boundaries within the context of the space while taking the viewer’s imagination to the limits. You are impelled to walk around the immense structure where you can see the tense cables bound to the sides of the piece along side the bottles and flimsy burlap sacks. It’s like taking a stroll around the temple of "K" and admiring the friezes.
In a separate room we see several black overcoats hanging on meat hooks in an otherwise empty alcove. This is what the curator hesitantly calls the “human presence”. In the last room there is another coat and a dress on display.
Kounellis began his career as a painter and then moved to installations and performances as did most of the other Arte Povera artists. Kounellis claimed that he always remained a painter, that he was painting the walls of the gallery instead of the “obsolete” canvas. In the 1960's the parameters of Kounellis' “canvas” was again tested through his installations that involved the use of live animals. Now, at Ambika P3 he is pushing himself further, the "K" as a reflection of Kounellis, and Kounellis being a replacement for the "canvas".
-- Jeffrey Andreoni
Jannis Kounellis, "Untitled," 2010, London, Courtesy of Sprovieri Gallery London, Photo (c) Michelle Coudray