Jannis Kounellis is undoubtedly one of the leading exponents of the movement which, in the late sixties, was dubbed "Arte Povera", a term coined in Italy and promoted by the critic Germano Celant. The term "povera", according to Simón Marchán Fiz, "is conditioned by the frequent use of humble, poor materials, generally not industrial, or by the scant information provided by the works." In the seventies, the Povera movement spread decisively through Southern Europe; among its representatives, apart from Kounellis, were Michelangelo Pistolleto, Luciano Fabro, Gilberto Zorio, Mario Merz, Pier Paolo Calzolari and Giovanni Anselmo in Italy, or Antoni Tàpies in Spain. Some German and American artists also defined their work in a very similar way; they include Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys, Ulrich Rückriem, Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Hans Haacke, Robert Smithson or Richard Long. Kounellis' work has been marked since the beginning by a defence of the use of non-industrial materials ("humanist" or "organic", in his own words) with which the artist found total involvement, although many of them were treated as "found objects". That constituted a bitter criticism of American Minimalist practices, which were not considered to transcend their own formalist, aesthetic condition. Kounellis' work, always in the form of large installations, have travelled the main art centres of the world. From La Tartaruga Gallery in Rome, where he began to exhibit in the mid sixties, his work has been shown at host of museums and exhibitions, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Espai Poblenou in Barcelona, the ARC/Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Documenta in Kassel, the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Musée National Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Gallery in London.
Jorge Luís Marzo