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Emilio Prini in 1979.

Emilio Prini (1943–2016)

Emilio Prini, Italian artist and leading figure in the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s, died on Thursday, September 1. Prini’s artistic practice, which employed light, photography, sound, and written texts to explore the nature of experience, has been described as “ungraspable,” “deceptive,” and “cryptic.”

In the September 1988 issue of Artforum, Jole de Sanna notes that his work defies categorization. He writes, “Prini resolutely avoids inclusion in ideologies and movements . . . At the same time that he is present within these movements, his presence is felt as one who watches over the development of things.”

According to Luca Lo Pinto, a curator at Kunsthalle Wien, Prini was “a grandiose artist who never adapted to the codes of the art system, forcing it to adapt to him with a tenacity that is unparalleled.” Prini created, revised, and continuously modified his artworks, working in a manner that suggests he never considered his work to be finished.

Born in Stresa, Italy, in 1943, the artist once said, “I have no program, I grope my way, I see no trace of the birth of Art (nor of Tragedy) because the C.S. is not the fruit of pure human work (because I did not make the chair, the table, the sheet of paper, the pen I use to write). I create nothing, if possible.”

Prini’s work has been included in various exhibitions, including “Op Losse Schroeven,” at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1969); “When Attitudes Become Form,” at Kunsthalle Bern (1969); “Konzeption/Conception,” at Stadtisches Museum, Leverkusen (1969); “Information,” at MoMA, New York (1970); “Contemporanea,” at Villa Borghese, Rome (1973); “Fermi in Dogana,” at Musée d’Art Moderne, Strasbourg (1995); Documenta X in Kassel (1997); and “Arte Povera,” at Tate Gallery, London (2001).

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