Arte Povera: Zero to Infinity - Tate Modern

On June 2001 I went to the Tate Modern to see Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera covering the period 1962-1972

The term "Arte Povera" was introduced in 1967 by the Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant. His pioneering texts and a series of key exhibitions provided a collective identity for a number of young Italian artists based in Turin, Milan, Genoa and Rome. They were working in radical new ways, breaking from the past and entering a changing dialogue with trends in Europe and America. Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera examines the work of the following key artists:

Giovanni Anselmo (b. 1934) divides his time between Turin and the volcanic island of Stromboli. It was while walking on Mount Stromboli at dawn in 1965 that he was suddenly struck by the realisation that he was merely a tiny detail in the vast continuum of universal energy. His many works are inspired by this using a wide range of materials including vegetables, water, electricity, granite, iron and plastic.

A presentation of gravity and tension is provided by Untitled, 1968 - also known as Eating Structure - the head of lettuce is squashed between a large standing block of granite and a smaller one is secured by a copper wire. If the lettuce is allowed to dry out, the wall will loose tension and small stone will fall on it. The sculpture must therefore be constantly "fed" with new lettuce.

 Luciano Falco's Road Map Italy (1969) is made of lead sheet and wood.

Alighiero Boetti(1940-94) works with cloth, cement, electric light, wood and even makes use of the postal system. His array of techniques encompasses embroidery, drawing, photocopying, printing, and photography. He often collaborated with people outside the art world. His Yearly Lamp is simply a light bulb in a wooden box, which randomly switches itself on for 11 seconds a year.

Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933) is the creator of Lunch Painting (1965); it is a cross between sculpture, painting and a picnic table and chairs.

Pier Paolo Calzolan (b. 1943) His major "Act of passion" as he calls their works was "the filter and a welcome to the angel" (1967) which suggested a translucent vision through the dizzying contrast of colours and the presence of a dazzling white doves.

Luciano Falco (b. 1936) uses organic and inorganic materials, making a contrasting boundary between man and nature. His series of Feet resembles the paws and claws of strange animals or birds topped by long tables of fine silk fabrics suggesting legs.

Piero Gilardi (b. 1942) began making his nature carpets in 1965 - polyurethane carpets that simulated natural phenomena such as riverbeds, leaves and fruit and which could be bought off a roll by the metre.

Janis Koumellis said, "Something we need to reach today is unity between life and our art practice. " One of his most famous works created in 1969 was Untitled (12 horses) an installation in Rome's L'Attico Gallery of 12 live horses tethered in the gallery for some days.

Mario Merz (b. 1925) In 1971 Merz began a series of photographs of social groupings such as Fibonacci Naples 1970 - 10 photographs of factory workers on their lunch break, building from a solitary person to a group of 55.

Marisa Merz (b. 1925) In 1968 she began knitting nylon or copper threads into simple delicate geometric shapes to fit her body. Little Shoes (1970) is a nylon thread sculpture made for her feet. Bea (1968) is another knitted work spelling out her daughter's name.

Giulio Paolini (b. 1940) The Apothesis of Homer is a work displayed on 32 music stands, and accompanied by a soundtrack and the artist's voice, with photographs of famous actors playing historical figures.

Pino Pascali (1936-68). One of his spectacular works is Bridge (1968), an 8-metre long "rope" bridge made of steel wool scouring pads which are strung across the gallery. Pascali died tragically following a motorcycle accident at the age of 32.

Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947) reflects his close relationship with nature. He said, "the clarity of the well-marked path is sterile. To find the path, to follow it, to examine it, and to clear away the tangled undergrowth, that is sculpture". To turn One's Eyes Inside Out (1970) is a photograph of Penone wearing mirrored contact lenses, the artist's eyes becoming screens on which to display a mirrored picture of the world. Because he grew up in an agricultural community he worked extensively in the natural landscape creating many tree sculptures, taking huge beams of roughly-processed timber and chiselled away the wood following the growth rings to expose the younger tree inside.

Emilio Prini (b. 1943) uses light, photography, sound and written texts and in many of his photographic works the camera itself and the processed of photography are the subject of the work. Five Spots of Light on Europe 1967-68 is a highlighting key cities in the European art world.

Gilberto Zorio (b. 1944) In Hate (1969) a soft lead panel is violently imprinted with the word "Odio" (hate) giving a sense of aggressive energy.

Verinha Ottoni.


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