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PEDIGREE & PROVENANCE--art words and terms.

Arte Povera

(Pronounced: art eh   po veh ra)

What is it?

Anselmo arte povera sculpture with lettuce
Covering the decade from the early 1960's to early 1970's, this Italian art movement is very much a creature of that exuberant, anarchic era. Artists involved in Arte Povera were only loosely affiliated; their shared concerns were innovation and experimentation as well as a profound desire to move beyond the omnipresent shadows of the Renaissance and Baroque masters. If the Arte Povera movement was poor in anything, it was poor in an interest in the history of fine art and its inherent elitism. The term was coined by critic Germano Celant who served as the theoretical voice of Arte Povera and who became a significant writer on late 20th century art.

What sort of works did the Arte Povera movement produce?

Mixed-media works, often with an interest in folk art, science and in the forces of nature predominated: Pier Paolo Calzolari (b.1943 Bologna) made works using sculptural materials with refrigeration to produce a frost-like cyclic element to the sculpture. The process of evaporation and gravity figure in the Giovanni Anselmo sculpture shown here: If the lettuce is not renewed before it wilts, the sculpture simply falls apart.
Giovanni Anselmo (b.1934 Turin) Sculpture "Untitled"
Granite, Copper Wire & Lettuce

Anita Gibson canvas with rusted nails
Not all Arte Povera works are mechanically complicated or gimmicky. Simpler pieces, such as this 1968 one by Arte Povera-influenced American artist Anita Gibson, include the basic art-making materials of nails and canvas. In this work, the rusting process and the rhythm of the placement of the glued-on nails combine to make a painting in a (somewhat) more traditional manner.
Anita Gibson's Untitled (Nails), Circa 1968
Unstretched Canvas & Rusting Nails

Which artists from the Arte Povera movement continued to be important?

The currently well-known names that were once involved with Arte Povera include Jannis Kounellis (b.1936) , Mario Merz (1925-1989), Marisa Merz (b.1931) and Michelangelo Pistoletto (b.1933) all of whom have had significant museum exhibitions in recent years.

GH Hovagimyan faux conceptual art

What is Arte Povera's legacy?

The important 1969 international exhibition "When Attitude Becomes Form", (at the Kunsthalle in Bern, Germany), showed Arte Povera works in concert with Anti-Form, Concept and Earth Art. The intellectual freedom and interest in scientific elements of this Arte Povera group--so 1960's, so Italian--cross-pollinated with artists working in Conceptual Art helping to produce the ironic, non-perceptual art that prevailed in the last quarter of the 20th century and that continues to influence many 21st century digital artists.

GH Hovagimyan's "Faux Conceptual Art--Boxed Edition"
shows the influence of Arte Povera
Note "Fibonacci Series with Calculators" (upper left)

Suggested Reading:
"The Avant-Garde in Exhibition, New Art in the 20th Century"
Bruce Altshuler, University of California Press, 1994
See: Chapter 13 "Dematerialization: The Voice of the Sixties"

P&P: Abstract Expressionism
P&P: architectonic
P&P: Arte Povera
P&P: Ash Can School
P&P: bronze patina
P&P: citrine
P&P: Colorfield painting
P&P: Greek columns
P&P: Conceptual Art
P&P: coromandel
P&P: depression glass
P&P: enamel
P&P: encaustic
P&P: etching
P&P: faux
P&P: foreshortening
P&P: gouache
P&P: Iconography & Iconology
P&P: New Image painting
P&P: Newcomb pottery
P&P: parfleche
P&P: Pop Art
P&P: porcelain
P&P: realism
P&P: Senufo
P&P: Surrealism
P&P: turquoise


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