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Article

Italian, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 17 July 1947, in Milan.

Painter, sculptor, theorist.

Arte Povera, Conceptual Art.

Adriano Altamira put forward his first critical observations on the phenomena of vision in 1967. Next he began to use minimalist structures, plaits and interlacings, like some of the methods used in France by the ...

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 1930, in Milan.

Sculptor, painter.

Arte Povera.

Aricò exhibited in Rome, Milan, Verona, and at the Venice Biennale in 1964 and 1968, as well as in Chicago and at the São Paulo Biennale in 1963. His use of litter and used objects in hazardous compositions has categorised him as an Arte Povera artist....

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 1943, in Bologna.

Sculptor, painter.

Arte Povera.

Pier Paolo Calzolari spent his teenage years in Venice. He lived in Paris from 1970 to 1972 and travelled from 1981 to 1986 in Crete, to Urbino, Vienna, Venice and Marrakech. Urbino is his home and workplace. His early violent oil paintings swung between representational and abstract styles, incorporating 'objects, cast shadows, small ledges'; then from ...

Article

American, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in England.

Born 1947, in Salem (Ohio).

Draughtsman, sculptor.

Without joining the Arte Povera movement, which sprang up primarily in Italy from 1968 onward, Joel Fischer nevertheless benefited from it, in that this movement looked at the coarsest materials through new eyes. However, the issue for Fischer is not one of expressivity, as it is for the Arte Povera artists, but rather a reflection on the ambitions of art. In his early career his work was above all intended to be a derisory activity. At this time he began to plait and spin hair, and make nails from old bits of metal or pieces of coarse paper from old clothes. By reaffirming ties with the artisan side of art, Fischer quickly found favour in the USA. Without losing interest in the materials, he began in the 1980s to explore meticulously the medium and subject of his future drawings: chiffon paper, which he makes entirely by hand. The imperfections are exaggerated with charcoal and, in a new space, come to signify a non-accidental form. In ...

Article

Antonello Negri

(b Peiraeus, March 21, 1936).

Greek painter, performance artist and sculptor, active in Italy. He studied in art college in Athens until 1956 and then went to Italy. He settled in Rome, studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti, where he was particularly influenced by the non-figurative painting of Alberto Burri. From 1958 to 1960 he produced Alphabets, expanses of colour with letters, numbers, typographical symbols and road markings superimposed (e.g. Z.44, 1960; Rome, G.N.A. Mod.). Such works clearly demonstrated his aim of transcending the poetics of Art informel and pursuing a line of study characterized by contradictory concerns with, on the one hand, the symbols of mass urban and industrial civilization, and on the other, primitive, fundamental, individual values. These were frequently expressed by the artist’s physical participation from 1960 in his own exhibitions at La Tartaruga, thus transforming them into performances where, for example, he would ‘sing’ the numbers and letters painted on the canvases....

Article

Greek, 20th century, male.

Active in Italy from 1956.

Born 23 March 1936, in Piraeus.

Sculptor of assemblages, painter.

Arte Povera.

Jannis Kounellis started his artistic training in Greece and left for Rome in 1956. He attended courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti and he discovered the works of Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana and the international avant-garde with Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni....

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 1 January 1925, in Milan; died 9 November 2003, in Milan.

Painter, installation artist, sculptor, draughtsman, mixed media.

Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Visual Poetry.

Mario Merz spent two years studying medicine at the University of Turin, during which time he also tried his hand at Concretist poetry and attended courses at the institute of fine arts. However, he soon turned against any kind of formal education. In 1945, shortly before the fall of Mussolini, he was imprisoned under the Fascist regime as a political activist. On his release he moved to Paris, where he became familiar with the work of artists such as Dubuffet, Fautrier and Pollock and the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1959, he met his future wife Marisa, and in the mid-1960s he returned to live and work in Turin....

Article

Italian, 20th century, female.

Born 1931.

Sculptor, draughtswoman, pastellist, installation artist.

Arte Povera.

The wife of Mario Merz, Marisa Merz was a member of the Arte Povera group from the beginning of her career and was the movement's only female member. She exhibited for the first time in ...

Article

Matthew Gale

(b Vergato, nr Bologna, Nov 24, 1943).

Italian painter, sculptor, conceptual artist and film maker. His first one-man show (1970; Milan, Gal. S Fedele) reflected his awareness of Arte Povera in the multifarious cut-outs of corrugated cardboard and rubber. Ontani’s major occupation was, however, enacting ritualized performances, as in the fire-walking film Fuochino (1972) shown at the Venice Biennale of 1972. In common with several contemporaries, he transformed himself, updating artistic quotations as a critique of past culture; he assumed a pose from David’s Rape of the Sabines in the punningly entitled Rattondo David (‘Raping David’, photographic tondo, 700 mm, 1974; see 1991 exh. cat., p. 43) to comment upon this process, as well as the retrospective sanitization of European culture. In performances at the Galleria L’Attico, Rome (with Jannis Kounellis, Francesco Clemente and others), Ontani acted out emblematic characters, from Don Quixote (1974) to Dracula (1975). In addition to such referential photographs as ...

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 5 November 1940, in Genoa.

Painter (mixed media), collage artist, sculptor, draughtsman.

Conceptual Art, Arte Povera.

Paolini lives and works in Turin and Paris. His artistic activity has been an enquiry into the multiple aspects of art. At the beginning of the 1960s, he created presentations of blank canvases, of the reverse side of canvases, supports and frames. Initially restricted to just the geometry of the canvas, his later work tended to include the physical space in which the works are displayed....

Article

Renato Barilli

(b Genoa, Nov 5, 1940).

Italian painter and sculptor. He trained as a graphic designer and in the 1960s reacted against the picturesqueness of Art informel by concentrating on the basic components of painting: canvas, frame, paint of a single colour or even the abolition of paint in favour of a completely bare surface. In Geometric Drawing (1960; see 1980 exh. cat., p. 10), for instance, he simply bisected the rectangular with four ink lines running vertically, horizontally and diagonally, an allusion to the traditional squaring up of an image for transfer. The themes he introduced in these works, pertaining especially to the problematic relationship between a copy (deemed inauthentic) and an original work, were central to everything he produced in later years.

Paolini soon turned to other media, in particular photography, which he also used at the most basic level of black and white, as part of his continuing investigation of painting and of the status of the individual object. In ...

Article

Italian, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 3 April 1947, in Garessio (Piedmont).

Sculptor, painter, draughtsman, illustrator, engraver, mixed media.

Arte Povera.

Giuseppe Penone was a student at the Accademia Albertina in Turin, where he lives and works. Overall, his work tends to show the link between man and his culture and nature as a part of the universe. Affiliated to Italian Arte Povera, his style belongs to that movement mainly by virtue of the materials he uses - branches, leaves, bark, snakeskins after sloughing, water and earth, marble, glass and the like. The artist himself gives his peasant origins as one of the reasons for his attachment to nature, seeing in them, as in the construction of a forest road, a 'magnificent work of art'. Postulating the idea of an ancient unitary state where there was no distinction between artisan and artist, he works with living organic matter. He borrows from nature, the source of creation, and writes his existence in it, presenting in ...

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 1933, in Biella (Piedmont).

Painter, sculptor, installation artist, photographer, writer.

Arte Povera.

The son of an art restorer, Michelangelo Pistoletto lives and works in Turin, and also teaches at the academy of fine arts in Vienna.Pistoletto's early works, painted during the 1950s, consisted of self-portraits against a monochrome background that revealed an interest in the work of Francis Bacon. He made his name from ...

Article

Renato Barilli

(b Biella, Vercelli, June 23, 1933).

Italian sculptor and painter. He grew up in Turin and from 1947 to 1958 was apprenticed to his father as a restorer. In 1947 he also produced his first paintings. Until 1962 he concentrated on portraits, influenced above all by the work of Francis Bacon. He soon realized, however, that he could never rival Bacon with conventional painting techniques. In 1962 he began instead to create life-size photographic likenesses of people and objects that he transferred on to reflective metal surfaces, as in Marzia with Child (painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel, 2×1.2 m, 1962–4; New York, Sonnabend priv. col.), creating an evocative interplay between the static printed image and moving reflections of the spectator on the mirrored surface. These works shared with Pop art a tribute to the poetic nature of objects, but their emphasis on process and on unconventional materials aligned them also with Arte Povera.

In ...

Article

Italian, 20th century, male.

Born 1944, in Andorno Micca.

Painter, sculptor, mixed media.

Arte Povera, Process Art.

Gilberto Zorio lives and works in Turin, where he studied at the Accademia Albertina delle Belle Arti from 1963 to 1970. He first made his mark as an artist in the new Arte Povera movement in ...