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
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
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.