Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Arte Povera 1968 : Exhibition at MAMbo















A truly exceptional exhibition (and a personal highlight from my trip to Italy), Arte Povera 1968 is installed in Bologna's Museo di Arte Moderna di Bolonga and is a nod to one of the first Arte Povera exhibitions held in Bologna in the the late 60s. I had fallen in love with this group of artists a few years ago (as this blog undoubtedly documents), though hadn't really looked much at their work in the past 8 or so months due to overkill thanks to my dissertation on the subject. Well, what a joyus re-discovery!

Having found the 'Enery and Process' wing at Tate Modern ineffective at showing the movement in it's truest, most dynamic light (a sense of museum-type stuffiness compromised many of the works), I was concerned this would be another detatched, 'on a pedestal' presentation of Arte Povera. However, as is obvious from the above gushing, I needn't have worried -my first thought as I walked into the exhibition space and read the introductory text was 'this is curated by someone who really understands and loves these artists'. So, it didn't surprise me, and gave me considerable delight, to find it was co-curated by the art critic who famously coined the term 'Arte Povera' (and curated most of their earlier exhibitions), Germano Celant. It's so important for a group show like this, showing work of some historical importance, not to be distracted from the original intent of the works. It takes a confident curator to embrace the nature of the sculptures as they are intended, and to put aside any sense of preciousness at the fact they are symptomatic of a particularly important time. good job lad.

It's a shame that the above photographs fail to do justice to the true intelligence and potency of the work - there was what I can only describe as an exploratory gravitational pull around the room, each piece offering some new element to discover and contemplate. But I suppose a lot of experiential sculpture/installation has to contend with the difficulty of the 2D image....it's always better to go see.
Anyway, these guys were unarguably trailblazers so, if you haven't already, look them up sometime - the work is still fresh, clever, relevant and, for want of a more poncy word, beautiful. Which is pretty impressive for something that lasted for 4 years, 40 years ago! I want me some of that staying power.



///// Interpretation from the exhibition\\\\\

Arte Povera started in the late 60s in a synergy with the emancipation movements and the protests characterising an age whose main trait was the liberation from social conventions and the status quo. Critic Germano Celant noted how some artists pursued a "linguistic split", shifting their interest from forms towards processes, from aesthetics to intentions, from objects to gestures, from a work's self contained space to the infinite potential of time and experience. The name derives from 'poor' (povero) theatre, as theorised by Grotowski, and references the strategy of reducing (impovershing) signs, in a search for what is primary and essential. This was also an attempt at backing out from the constant accumulation of traditions, returning centrality to mankind, instead of granting it to it's products.

Arte Povera rejected cultural sediments and hence was unwilling to present itself as an avant garde; already in 1971 Celant declared the movements end, it's disintegration into individual artists' experiences, each of them developing a specific path with a particular attention to materials, conceptual apparatuses, formal disaggregation and recombination, behavioural practices, poetic activity: all these aspects now define what has come to be seen as a conventional way of understanding contemporary art.

The show presented at MAMbo takes it's cue from one of the first Arte Povera exhibitions, held in Bologna in February 1968; it is part of a wider effort shared by many Italian museums, of elaborating a historical interpretation of a movement born out of a rejection of institutional knowledge; paradoxically enough, such a movement, alongside Fascism, represents Italy's most important and influential artistic movements of the 20th century.

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