Kounellis, Jannis Ohne Titel (Da inventare sul posto) / Untitled (To invent on the spot), 1972
Partitur aus "La Pulcinella" (Igor Strawinsky), aufzuführen mit einer Ballerina und einem Violonisten. Öl auf Leinwand object measurements: 100 x 70 x 22 cm , 248 x 195,5 x 3,3 cm Courtesy: Jannis Kounellis / © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 Photo: Archive Viehof Collection

About the work

"The simpler and more compelling the choice of material, the more reduced the formal idiom, and the more directly intuitive the initial perception; the moment that a viewer becomes aware of an originally unnoticed dimension of an artwork and sees behind its façade, it becomes more intense. The first impression can sometimes even become inverted into its opposite. Like a meticulous dramaturge, Jannis Kounellis stages this shift between appearance and reality in many of his works, which fascinate us through their choice of basic materials. The 1972 work Untitled (Da inventare sul posto) is presumably one of his most intense. An excerpt from Stravinsky’s La Pulcinella is depicted in thin black notes on a large canvas, two thirds of which has been covered with pale pink, painted hatching. A violinist before the canvas plays the sequence of notes that is visible behind him, and a ballerina in classical dress dances to the music in a free improvisation. The music and the dancer’s movements are continuously repeated, interrupted only by short breaks. As the number of repetitions increases, that which initially seemed poetic inevitably transforms – for the viewer, dancer, and violinist – into a physically and mentally torturous process devoid of any aim."

Text: Annika Forjahn

About the artist

born 1936 in Piraeus
died 2017 in Rome

Jannis Kounellis (Iannis Kounellis) began his artistic education at the Athens University of Art. In 1956, at the age of twenty, he emigrated due to the tense political situation to Italy where “Iannis” became Jannis. In Rome he was able to carry on with his discontinued art studies at Accademia di Belle Arti. During his first years in the city he primarily created writing, number and letter paintings. These paintings resembled performances as Kounellis would sing the painted letters and numbers simultaneously. In 1960 his works were exhibited at Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome. Kounellis increasingly turned towards performance art and from 1963 began to integrate potato sacks, junk, earth, wood, wool, glass and coal into his works. From 1967 he became a founding member as well as the most important representative of the Arte Povera movement. Characteristic for Kounellis works was the juxtaposition of natural organic materials such as stone, coal, wool and hair with found, pre-fabricated objects such as beds, wooden pallets and iron plates. In 1972 Kounellis took part in the documenta, in the same year his first solo exhibition was held at Sonnabend Gallery in New York.