Wednesday, July 3, 2002
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will be the only east coast venue for “Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972,” on view from Oct. 24, 2002 – Jan. 20, 2003. This is the first comprehensive exhibition in nearly twenty years to focus on “Arte Povera,” the name given to the work produced by a loose-knit group of artists working in Italy who created experimental, process-based sculptures, installations and other works. The exhibition originated in London with stops in Minneapolis and Los Angeles before this final stop in Washington D.C. The show will be installed on the second floor of the museum, which is located at Independence Avenue at Seventh Street S.W.
The term “Arte Povera” (literally translated as “poor art”) was coined by Italian curator and critic Germano Celant in 1967 to describe the group’s radical attitudes and anti-hierarchical approach to materials. The philosophy of the Arte Povera artists reflected the particular political and economically chaotic time, when the postwar “Italian miracle” collapsed into mounting student and worker strife. Based in Turin, Rome, Genoa and Milan, the artists associated with the movement challenged traditional artistic practice, specifically the supremacy of painting, at a time when Pop art was giving way to Minimalism and Conceptual art in the United States.
Artists and Works
Over 140 works by fourteen artists are included in the exhibition, as well as documentary photographs, films and other archival materials. The works, which do not adhere to a distinct style, reflect the Arte Povera artists’ desire to break down the separation between art and life and an almost alchemical interest in employing unorthodox materials, including coal, wood, silk, glass, living plants and animals.
Following is an alphabetical listing of the artists with a summation or highlight of works to be included in the exhibition:
Giovanni Anselmo: Sculptures made of striking combinations of organic and inorganic materials such as lettuce and granite, leather and concrete.
Alighiero Boetti: Embroidered maps of the world, in which the outline of each country is filled by its national flag, evoking the importance of craft and labor, and challenging the notion of nation states.
Pier Paolo Calzolari: Phrases in neon playing with language or placed in conjunction with mattresses and freezing elements, tobacco leaves and hanging light bulbs.
Luciano Fabro: Installation of monumental “feet” made from marble, metal and silk, contrasting nature with the man-made and evoking Italy’s cultural past.
Piero Gilardi: Carpets that simulate nature and can be bought by the meter.
Jannis Kounellis: Installations of live cacti, sacks of beans, a stone-filled doorway and sculptures of wool, wood and iron.
Mario Merz: Neon embellished photographic projects, Fibonacci number sequences, glass igloos and other objects referring to energy, transformation and political events.
Marisa Merz: Sculptures and pillows knitted from metallic threads and suspended from the ceiling to create coiled and spiraling forms.
Giulio Paolini: Stretched canvases, plaster fragments and an installation of music stands go beyond the limitations of the traditional practices of painting and sculpture.
Pino Pascali: Sculpted weapons and shaped-canvas works incorporate social commentary and play on conventional definitions of art.
Giuseppe Penone: Sculptures in which the wood is chiseled away from processed timber to show the tree within and other conceptually oriented work.
Michelangelo Pistoletto: Images of the human figure painted on polished steel and “Minus Objects,” which confuse the viewer’s spatial orientation in relation to the work.
Emilio Prini: A new temporary piece will be produced by this performance-based artist.
Gilberto Zorio: Sculpture and installations characterized by an interest in natural processes involving transformation and the release of energy.
Michelangelo Pistoletto will share personal insights into Arte Povera and illuminate his own work at the Hirshhorn’s annual Mordes Lecture in Contemporary Art, Sunday Nov. 17, at 3 p.m.
Curators and Itinerary
“Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972” was jointly organized by Richard Flood, Chief Curator of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Frances Morris, Senior Curator at the Tate Modern, London. The Hirshhorn’s Curator of Works on Paper, Phyllis Rosenzweig, is the coordinating curator for this final Washington showing. Previous venues and dates are: the Tate Modern, London (May 31 – Aug. 19, 2001), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (Oct. 13, 2001 – Jan. 13, 2002), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (April 28 – Sept. 22, 2002).
The exhibition is accompanied by a 368-page illustrated catalog, with essays by the organizing curators plus five other contributors, artists’ writings and interviews and selected exhibition histories and bibliographies. Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, New York, the catalog is available at the Museum Store for $55.
Organization and Sponsorship
“Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972” was organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Tate Modern, London. The United States presentation of the exhibition is made possible by the Italian Trade Commission. Additional support for the exhibition has been provided by Honeywell International, the Mrs. Estëe Lauder Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Craig Baker, and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. The Washington, D.C. presentation has been made possible in part by the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn.
The Hirshhorn is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Take Metrorail to L’Enfant Plaza, Maryland Avenue exit. For more information call (202) 357-2700.