Jannis Kounellis. Photo: Wikipedia

Jannis Kounellis (1936–2017)

The Greek-Italian artist Jannis Kounellis has died. Kounellis was born in Piraeus, Greece. After World War II and the Greek Civil War, he moved to Rome and enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arti. He became an early member of the Arte Povera movement, participating in the seminal “Arte Povera – e IM Spazio” show, curated by Germano Celant. Kounellis became known for works that eroded the boundaries among painting, sculpture, found objects, and eventually even performance. In the late 1960s, he began introducing live animals into his art, once famously bringing a dozen horses into a gallery. In the following two decades, he expanded his material iconography to include postindustrial elements such as coal and smoke.

Kounellis’s first solo show in New York took place at Sonnabend Gallery in 1972. In 1986 the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, staged a retrospective of his work, and he exhibited in Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Biennale of Paris, among other festivals. In the October 2015 issue of Artforum, Paola Nicolin reviewed a two-location show of Kounellis’s work, writing: “His work always suggests a register beyond the range of the visual. Indeed, the dense industrial materials, earthen hues, and odors that are typical of Kounellis’s art elicit in me a magical synesthetic response.”