The Greek artist Jannis Kounellis (1936 – 2017), who lived in Rome, was a co-founder of the Arte Povera movement that formed in Italy during the 1960s. After the early type and number pictures, since 1960 series of works are created as stagings of poetic, existential situations using unusual materials and finds from everyday life. These surprising confrontations undermine familiar notions of art; the artistic language is understood as a process to be perpetuated that is subject to constant change. The artist deals with history and myths, combining antiquity and the present, the past and utopian dreams. Everything is saturated with collective memories. These works are scenic evocations, composed of fragments of memory as symbols of transience.
Represented in Harald Szeemann’s groundbreaking “When Attitudes Become Form” exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969; participated in documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972 (in the “Individual Mythologies” section) and documenta 7 in 1982. One of her most important solo exhibitions was the one in 2007/2008 at the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, which was accompanied by a substantial publication.
An instructive example of Kounellis’ ongoing search for complex references and historicity is her Gospel of Thomas. It is one of the artist’s most important graphic cycles, consisting of twelve large-format sheets, published by Har-El Printers & Publishers in Jaffa. The artist traces the text’s content and characteristic style in the symbolic expression and immediacy of her simple, allegorical imagery and found in a material-like, terragraphic technique an artistic means adequate for her succinct statement.