“Artist’s Books” of Jannis Kounellis in Venezia 2019



Exhibition Time: 11 May – 24 November 2019
Location: Fondazione Prada, Venice, Italy

During our journey to the 58th International Art Exhibition in Venice / La Biennale d’Arte di Venezia, where Lithuanian Pavilion won the Venice Biennale’s 2019 Golden Lion, we visited the exhibition of Jannis Kounellis in Fondazione Prada,Venezia.

Lithuanian Pavilion in Venezia Art Biennial 2019

It was Monday, and Venice Art Biennial was closed. As we were living in beautiful and quiet island of Sant’Elena, we took the vaporetto numero uno, and sailed to Fondazione Prada on the Grand Canal.

Fondazione Prada, located in the 18th century Palazzo Corner della Regina, presents Jannis Kounellis retrospective in Venice. His exhibition – absolutely fantastic!

Jannis Kounellis. "Untitled". 2011

Jannis Kounellis (1936–2017) was a Greek Italian contemporary artist based in Rome. Jannis Kounellis was born in Piraeus, in Greece and died in Rome. After the Second World War and Greek Civil War he moved to Rome in 1956, where he was studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Rome. His name associated with Arte Povera. In some of his first exhibitions, Kounellis began stenciling numbers, letters, and words onto his canvases. Later, in 1960 he began to introduce found sculptural objects such as actual street signs into his work. Jannis Kounellis started to connect in his works painting, sculpture, and performance for “going out” of traditional art. The question would be: did he went out of traditional art? and what is traditional art? But it is not our subject of discussion about that in this post. Jannis Kounellis – the Great Artist! He wonderful plays with different meanings and connect different materials like Antoni Tàpies or Joseph Beuys.

Jannis Kounellis. "Untitled". 1965

Jannis Kounellis. “Untitled”. 1969

The exhibition “Jannis Kounellis”, curated by Germano Celant, brings together more 60 works from 1959 to 2015, from both Italian and international museums. It was a great joy slowly to walk from the hall to the hall, to see the installations, (not to see, but to be in the installations) and to feel the Art, to feel the Time. And here, between the wonderful paintings and installations, I “found” some wonderful “artist’s books”. I think Jannis Kounellis never call it as an “artist’s books”. It was too earlier such objects of art to call an “artist’s book”… But now, we can say – it is Wall Artist’s Book.

Jannis Kounellis. "Senza titolo". 1987

Even now, not so many artists create artist’s book objects. But even more rarely artists creates wall artist’s books, or artist’s book installations. But Jannis Kounellis in 1987 created six art works “senza titolo” (“without title”) using big iron plates and strange materials, like newspapers, flowers, wood, wool or stones. The visualization of idea, using and incorporating soft of hard materials in iron plate, creates wonderful wall artist’s book. It is not “big metal page” with illustration – flowers, or wool. No. It is not illustration at all, that is object of art with idea in itself, like artist’s book. And such “flat” artist’s book is much more an artist’s book than Anselm Kiefer’s lead airplane sculpture with books from lead on the wings of it.

Jannis Kounellis. “Senza titolo”. 1987

Here are few wall artist’s books from the previous exhibitions “International Artist’s Book Triennial Vilnius”. Sabine Hoffmann connect hanging linen rags with found stones in Vilnius. Vincke Wolfgang use found objects: old wooden plates with the cross on it from the cemetery with books without covers. Marie Claire Meier plays with the structures of flat surface and active horizontal lines on it. Batai Sandor in his artist’s book between two wooden plates put some soft paper. Artists plays not only with connection of different materials, but more with connections of different meanings.

Batai Sandor. Hungary. 2000

Another installation of Jannis Kounellis – “Untitled”, 2004, lead rolls, fabric – also very close to the artist’s book, to the scroll artist’s book.

Jannis Kounellis. "Untitled". 2014

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis. “Untitled”. 2006

Here we have to call it again – the Wall Artist’s Book or Artist’s Book Installation. Scrolls, made from the lead, are placed in the doorway of the door. Beautiful artist’s book installation connect us with the first structure of a book – scroll book. I think the structure of scroll book comes not from Eastern Mediterranean ancient Egyptian civilizations, like we can read, but from the Far East. In the ancient libraries scrolls were kept on the shelves, a little the same like Kounellis did.

Contemporary artists use structure of scroll as an idea for creating own artist’s books. And here we see many variations. Eszter Bornemisza created box-shelves for keeping fabric in it like in library.

Eszter Bornemisza. Hungary

Ania Gilmore created small “Library of Alexandria” in the book. Lilo Schaer put “scrolls” in the box in another direction.

Ania Gilmore. USA. 2009

Lilo Schaer. USA. 1999

TAJO (Joseph Stefan Tasi) with scrolls creates artist’s book installation.

TAJO (Joseph Stefan Tasi). Romania. 2002

Another art work of Jannis Kounellis, which I would like to attribute to Wall Artist’s Book – “Charta. Dal papiro al computer” (“Charta. From papyrus to computer“), 1988. Here we see the direct allusion of the artist to the history of the book.

Jannis Kounellis. "Charta. Dal papiro al computer". 1988

Jannis Kounellis

And the last artist’s book installation of Jannis Kounellis in Fondazione Prada in Venice, two metal pages on the floor, installed in the centre of the space.

Jannis Kounellis. “Untitled”. 2015

Venezia is always amazing, and here always nice to be. But after exhibition of Jannis Kounellis, was a little difficult to see the Venezia Art Biennial – too much bad art. Maybe the Biennial, like Jannis Kounellis did 60 years ago, has to “go out” of “traditional local art”…

In the Exhibition



Kestutis Vasiliunas (Prof. Kestutis Vasiliunas}


©  Photos: 2Cent.
© Artist’s Book Creators 2019

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