Italian contemporary art history lecture delivered at National College of Arts – Rawalpindi NCA
RAWALPINDI: Lavinia Filippi, Italian art historian and contemporary art critic delivered today a largely attended presentation at the National College of Arts – Rawalpindi on “Arte Povera” (literally Poor Art), an art movement that started in Italy at the end of the 1960s and that became one of the most significant and influential avant-garde movements in post-war Europe. It grouped the work of those Italian artists identified for their use of everyday life materials that were new in art at that time, such as rocks, clothing, paper and industrial scraps.
The ARTE POVERA artists would sometime include in their installations the 4 elements (water, earth, air and fire), or even live animals. Most of their works were sculptures or installations but there was also an important performing aspect.
The term, POOR ART, was used for the first time in 1967 by the Italian art critic Germano Celant and it was inspired from the “Poor Theatre” promoted, in the same years, by the Polish director Jerzy Grotowski.
To illustrate the theory of the movement Mr. Celant wrote – as Lavinia Filippi stresses – that ARTE POVERA consisted in “reducing at lowest terms, impoverishing the signs to reduce them to their own archetype”.
In the same year, 1967, Germano Celant organized the first group show of the movement in Genoa, in Northern Italy. It included works by Alighiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali and Emilio Prini. All of the works made use of everyday or “poor” materials.
Throughout the ’60s, ’70s and even more recently, many other artists were associated to the group or tried to be identified as part of it, with more or less success. In their mission to reconnect life with art, the Italian ARTE POVERA artists strove to evoke an individual, personal response in each of their pieces, stressing an interaction between viewers and objects that was impossible to repeat and purely original. Their work marked a reaction against the modernist abstract painting that had dominated European art in the 1950s, hence much of the group’s work was sculptural.
But the group also rejected American Minimalism, in particular what they perceived as its enthusiasm for technology. Therefore, POP ART was also another “enemy”, even though the artists who took part the Italian version of Pop Art, that took place at the very beginning of the ’60 in Rome, and which includes Mario Schifano, Tano Festa e Piero Angeli, were close to the ARTE POVERA’s artists. Also, although ARTE POVERA is most notable for its use of simple, artisanal materials, it did not use only these. Some of the group’s most memorable work comes from the contrast of unprocessed materials with references to the most recent consumer culture. There would use a lot of Ready Made as they were called and first introduced in art by Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaist movement.
Believing that modernity could erase our sense of memory along with all signs of the past, the ARTE POVERA group wanted to contrast the new and the old in order to complicate our sense of the effects of the passing of time. More than a movement with a well-defined poetic identity, ARTE POVERA was a way of thinking. Thus in ARTE POVERA we can find not only an artistic theory about life, but also a reflection on the human condition.The ARTE POVERA’s artists translated the desire for freedom, typical of the period, into an art that went beyond the idea of the artwork as an unique piece. What they wanted was the “freedom of the object” to amplify the work towards a multiplicity of meanings and “beyond the borders of the object itself”.
Mrs. Filippi, that currently writes for several international art magazines including Flash Art, ArteIn and Art Now Pakistan, moved to Pakistan 3 years ago when her husband, Dr Federico Bianchi, was posted at the Italian Embassy in Islamabad. This gave her “the opportunity to discover a very vibrant and exiting contemporary art scene” as she stated in her opening remarks. I and I am specializing in Pakistani contemporary Art through interviews and studio visits of the main established and emerging Pakistani artists. Before moving to Pakistan. Lavinia worked for the Italian national TV Broadcaster RAI, with a show on contemporary art, with art galleries in Rome and New York City and for the “Castello di Rivoli” the most important Italian contemporary art Museum near Turin, that hosts the world biggest collection of ARTE POVERA.
In her closing remarks, Mrs. Filippi drew a parallel between the Italian art movement in the 196-0s and the current Pakistani art scene that sees also artists working with simple and everyday life materials as a rejection to consumerism. Amongst them, she cited as example the work of IMRAN HUNZAI, Sculptor, painter and Professor at NCA Rawalpindi, who recently showcased his works made out of recycled electronic material – inspired by ARTE POVERA – at Satrang gallery, Islamabad The presentation was organised by NCA Rawalpindi with the support of the Italian Embassy in Islamabad.
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