Elizabeth Mangini

  • Jannis Kounellis and Felix Schramm

    A distinct theatricalization of the everyday links the practices of Jannis Kounellis and Felix Schramm, two longtime friends who were once teacher and student. Although the late Greek Italian artist had a penchant for heavy materials, while the German artist is more attentive to lightness and play, their practices meet on philosophical grounds, as this dual exhibition demonstrated. Kounellis was represented by three moments in his artistic arc: a pre–Arte Povera painting, a 1979 print made at San Francisco’s legendary Crown Point Press, and two assemblages that display the affective material

  • Mario Merz

    HOW DO WE RECONCILE our own desires with those of others? Mario Merz (1925–2003) persistently used his art to probe the counterpoint between individuals and society that is at the heart of modern democracy. The Italian artist’s decades-long engagement with constructions that simultaneously recall shelters and the globe is the clearest manifestation of this concern. Since last fall, more than thirty of what Merz called his “igloos” have been assembled in the cavernous industrial space of Milan’s Pirelli Hangar Bicocca. On a scale never achieved in his lifetime, this installation maps his vision


    Curated by Iria Candela

    The Argentinean-Italian artist Lucio Fontana was nearly sixty when he made the first of his “Tagli” (Cuts), 1958–68, the slashed monochrome canvases with which he is now indelibly associated. This sweeping New York retrospective will put those late paintings in context, reminding viewers that Fontana’s concept of “Spatialism” was fundamentally multidisciplinary. Installed at both Met locations and accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, the show will explore an artistic career that spanned four decades, two continents, six manifestos, and media as diverse as stone, metal,


    Between 1968 and 2003, Italian artist Mario Merz built scores of igloos from materials such as glass, clay, sand, iron, sticks, stones, and fabric. That none were made of ice indicates that he wished to explore the construction as a model for anthropological space rather than as a cultural practice. Simultaneously domus and dome—home and archetype—the igloos perform the precarious relationship between individuals and society that informs the artist’s oeuvre. While Merz was fabricating his first igloo, international interest in nonpedigreed architecture was emerging as

  • Lucio Fontana

    The slashed and punctured canvases in Lucio Fontana’s series “Tagli”(Cuts), 1958–68, and “Buchi”(Holes), 1949–68, are often characterized as extreme forms of midcentury modernism’s gestural impulses, or as embodiments of the postwar era’s lingering social turmoil. Both interpretations may be valid, but the Italian-Argentinean artist’s desecration of the picture plane may in fact be best understood in the context of his immersive “Ambienti spaziali” (Spatial Environments), 1948–68. This exhibition, curated by Marina Pugliese, Barbara Ferriani, and Vicente Todolí, presented careful reconstructions

  • Gilberto Zorio

    NEITHER AN ARTWORK nor the career of an artist is a fixed entity. This is the ultimate takeaway from the retrospective at Turin, Italy’s Castello di Rivoli of sculptor Gilberto Zorio’s work, which consists of energetic ideas and objects that have shifted, grown, and intertwined over his five-decade career. The Italian artist is something of a hometown hero, having resided in the neighboring metropolis of Turin since graduating from its Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in the 1960s. This local renown, however, belies his importance to international artistic discourse. From his early days (when

  • Jim Campbell

    The phenomenology of perception goes electronic in Jim Campbell’s work. His signature homemade, high-tech fabrications include LED projectors, multiple-exposure photographs, diffusion screens, and moving images superimposed with treated Plexiglas. Titled “Far Away Up Close,” this exhibition featured fifteen works from the past year that presented viewers with either too much visual data or not enough, laying bare the work involved in seeing.

    Installed at the show’s entrance was Data Transformation 1, a video rear-projected by more than a thousand LED lights onto a translucent Plexiglas screen.


    Most art-world denizens know Fontana as the maker of punctured and slashed monochrome canvases that seem to embody the nihilism and lingering violence of the postwar discourse on gesture. Few conoscenti, however, have closely read Fontana’s manifestos on Spatialism, which contextualize his plastic works as research into space, light, technology, and the cosmos. Fewer still have experienced his Spatial Environments, the immersive installations that occupied much of his last decade. In collaboration with the Fondazione Lucio Fontana,

  • Nicole Wermers

    The playfulness of Nicole Wermers’s exhibition “Grundstück” belied a more serious project, one that engages the phenomenological implications of familiar forms. The German-born, UK-based artist highlights the peculiar coldness of modernism’s retail legacy by hijacking consumer objects and ludically subverting their intended uses. Here, Wermers presented three new bodies of work, each of which contrasts high and low and pits strict geometry against tendencies toward disorder.

    The artist’s humorous approach was easily glimpsed in the five “Mood Boards,” 2016–17, hung along the gallery’s east wall.

  • Chris Finley

    Chris Finley is a restless maker, and the results of his unflagging labors—a new series of sculptures and paintings—packed the industrious artist’s first solo show in five years. During that interim he was voraciously collecting and upcycling the mass-produced flotsam of everyday life: an old pair of jeans, a no-slip bath mat, a broken window screen, a shoe, vinyl place mats, a deflated yoga ball . . . In sir seek hoe (animal) (all works 2014), two 1970s-era Jim Henson puppets—along with various bits and pieces—are nestled between seemingly haphazard disks made from mismatched

  • Sara VanDerBeek

    The apparent movement of the sun across the firmament is nearly impossible to measure with the naked eye, but human cultures have nonetheless used the changing quality of light to quantify time for millennia. The resulting concepts of “day” and “night” are entirely geocentric constructions, yet they persist. The conceit of a day/night separation structured “Ancient Objects, Still Lives,” Sara VanDerBeek’s two-room show of new photographs and sculptures, but, like the lived experience of a sky’s darkening, the diachronic movement was perceived almost exclusively in hindsight. Shot on film and

  • Yves Klein/David Hammons

    Nouveau Réaliste Yves Klein was notorious in the 1960s for using women as “human paintbrushes,” while American Conceptualist David Hammons gained renown a decade later for indexical drawings made using his own greased-up body. Though the two artists’ practices emerged from vastly different contexts and conversations, this exhibition—one of several inaugurating the AAM’s new downtown venue—contends that an irreverent attitude toward artmaking connects Klein and Hammons in intriguing ways. Three themes, “Ritual,” “Process,” and “Transformation,” promise

  • Gianni Piacentino

    Turin-based sculptor Gianni Piacentino came of age in the 1960s, when the northern Italian city was still essentially a car town, dominated by Fiat, Lancia, and Moretti. His first career retrospective will demonstrate the ways in which his works have consistently embodied the industrial aesthetics of the local trade. From the wooden geometric structures included in early Arte Povera exhibitions to his most recent four-wheeled aluminum constructions, Piacentino’s large-scale minimal sculptures, with their slick, often poly-coated or enameled surfaces, are redolent of

  • “Six Lines of Flight: Shifting Geographies in Contemporary Art”

    A photograph reveals a man sprawled facedown in the street, alone except for a distant cyclist and the presence of the camera. A send-up of Yves Klein’s infamous 1960 photomontage, this work, Romanian artist Ciprian Mures¸an’s Leap into the Void, After 3 Seconds, 2004, restages Klein’s iconic gesture of artistic freedom. On view here, it served to highlight one of the primary themes of “Six Lines of Flight”: the relationships between as many emergent art scenes and more established centers. Mures¸an’s image is exemplary of the witty, intrepid, performative practices of the artists selected for

  • Arte Povera in Naples

    CAN A HISTORICAL EXHIBITION of Arte Povera, which necessarily reframes as sculptures works that were once performative and ephemeral, provide something new to contemporary viewers and still honor the unrepeatability of the first experiment? One answer was posed by “Arte Povera più azioni povere 1968” (Poor Art Plus Poor Actions 1968) at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) in Naples this past winter. (The exhibition was part of “Arte Povera 2011,” a nationwide celebration coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.) Curated by Eduardo Cicelyn and Arte Povera’s


    SINCE GIUSEPPE PENONE burst onto the Turinese art scene in the heyday of Arte Povera with a series of photographs documenting actions performed in the forested foothills of the Italian Maritime Alps, trees have remained central to his oeuvre. More than just a raw material, trees for Penone are organisms with a life force that he can work both with and against. In the “Alpi Marittime” project, begun in 1968, he interrupted the natural growth of saplings by introducing permanent markers of his presence—a metal cast of his hand, or a wire silhouette of his body’s embrace—the effects of which he documented for thirty years. Conversely, in the famous series “Ripetere il bosco” (Repeating the Forest), 1969–97, he recovered the “trees” hidden inside milled lumber by carving away the pulp around the hard knots that were once the living tree. This sustained attention to our relationship to nature is part of Penone’s poetic articulation of the tensions between tradition and technology that defined northern Italy as it shifted to an industrial economy after World War II. Critic Tommaso Trini has described Penone as belonging to the “Turin School” of Arte Povera, characterized by conceptual rigor and earnest investigation of the internal operations of works of art. Among his peers Giovanni Anselmo, Mario Merz, and Gilberto Zorio, Penone is distinctive for his intertwined physical and philosophical approach to the practice of sculpture, positing, for example, that the sculptor’s touch is analogous both to the organic formation of matter in nature and to the broader implications of human labor. In 1981, he made Essere fiume (To Be a River), two identical stones placed side by side, one taken from a riverbed, sculpted by the passage of water over its surface, the other a replica created by the artist. Such works as this, like the corporeal traces left on the “Alpi Marittime” trees, investigate the slow time of organic processes in counterpoint to technological speed, connecting human and geologic scales of time. On the summer solstice of this year, Penone presented Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone), 2004/2010, the inaugural work of Documenta 13 (the exhibition proper opens in 2012). The piece comprises a bronze sculpture of a large tree with a stone lodged high in its branches, as well as a living sapling planted nearby. Speaking in Kassel at noon on the dedication day, the artist described the physical tensions between the two trees and the boulder in terms of his broader investigation into the philosophical and sensory divide between the practices of painting and sculpture. Afterward, I asked him to elaborate on these ideas and how they relate to the conventional notions of perception that are foundational for understanding one’s own being in the world.
    —Elizabeth Mangini


    PAINTING AND SCULPTURE are terms that indicate two expressive languages. Conventionally, sculpture is volume, and lives in space, while painting is surface, two-dimensionality. Sculpture is born from the imprint of feet in mud, painting from the imprint of hands—dirty with mud—on the walls of a cave. The conventional ways in which we describe these two modes are schematic and synthetic, and one can find many differences and similarities.

    We know that the etymology of color is “to cover.” Painting covers the surface on which it lies and hides the light. Sculpture, on the

  • Giuseppe Penone

    The Italian artist’s first major UK retrospective will trace the poetic correspondence between man and nature through a substantial selection of the drawings, photographs, and sculptures.

    Natural processes have always provided Arte Povera pioneer Giuseppe Penone with an analogue for his own labor as a sculptor. Environmental forces, for example, are subtly contrasted with human touch in his “Essere fi ume” (To Be a River), 1981–95: In this series Penone paired two hefty stones, one shaped by a river’s water over millennia, the other an identical copy recently carved by hand. The Italian artist’s first major UK retrospective will trace such poetic correspondence between man and nature through a substantial selection of the drawings, photographs, and

  • Arte Povera

    FORTY YEARS AGO this month, the critic and curator Germano Celant thrust arte povera upon the international scene. Amid tumultuous demonstrations at Italian universities that, like many other movements circa 1968, were aimed at institutional structures that preserved the stratifications of class, the twenty-seven-year-old Celant asserted that Italian artists were confronting their own social and cultural patrimony. Using the utopian rhetoric typical of twentieth-century avant-gardes, he wrote of a desire to escape the bounds of a social system that rewards conformity and limits experience, and

  • Piero Manzoni

    Of the postwar European artists responding to Duchamp’s legacy, it was Milan’s Piero Manzoni who most potently examined the notion of the artist as the nexus of meaning. From his materially diverse “achromes” to his ironic performances of his own signature—a thumbprint, or a balloon filled with his breath—to his infamous Merda d’artista, 1961, Manzoni’s shooting-star career is exhaustively explored at MADRE. With some two hundred works, this show expands upon curator Germano Celant’s 1998 Manzoni retrospective in London by providing an important formal and ideological

  • Daniel Spoerri

    Long before Félix González-Torres piled candies in corners or Rirkrit Tiravanija served up pad thai, Daniel Spoerri created work that related to its audience through the belly: For his “trap pictures,” which he started making while affiliated with Nouveau Réalisme in the early 1960s, he affixed the crockery and detritus left by his dinner guests to the table and hung the tabletops on the wall like paintings.

    Long before Félix González-Torres piled candies in corners or Rirkrit Tiravanija served up pad thai, Daniel Spoerri created work that related to its audience through the belly: For his “trap pictures,” which he started making while affiliated with Nouveau Réalisme in the early 1960s, he affixed the crockery and detritus left by his dinner guests to the table and hung the tabletops on the wall like paintings. Though the artist is best known for these and other food-related works—the guest lists for meals at the Restaurant Spoerri (1968–72) read like a veritable roll call