Jannis Kounellis
Casa Testori
21 September – 10 November 2019

Giuseppe Frangi

It is a great emotion to welcome into the rooms of Casa Testori this cycle of engravings by Jannis Kounellis, almost a solemn farewell hymn by one of the greatest masters of our time. The 12 engravings, on two metres by one metre slabs, that compose the series were made in 2014 in the artist’s studio in Umbertide, where Corrado and Gianluca Albicocco, owners of one of Italy’s most prestigious art print shops, had “moved” their workshop there for the occasion […].

The engravings have a unique subject: the coat. They were made using the carborundum technique on zinc plates. Carborundum is an uncommon chalcographic technique that does not require acid biting or cutting tools to engrave the metal surface. Instead, an epoxy resin combined with silicon powder, sand or iron filings is used, an amalgam that, when dried, turns into a very hard and resistant ceramic material: a material capable of retaining a large part of the oily mixture of the ink and thus transferring the shapes onto the surface of the paper with the pressure of the press. The final effect, clearly visible in these works by Kounellis, is one of intense and dramatic granularity, of a materiality that deflagrates on the white surface of the paper support. As Roberto Budassi wrote in the volume dedicated to the cycle of engravings (a+mbookstore editions): “Kounellis consciously chooses the chalcographic technique of carborundum because this allows him to act on the work without the mediation of any instrument, of any other artifice that is not of a physical nature, of an instrument that is different from his own hands, from that workforce necessary for the genesis of the work itself, to its becoming an object and a testimony through the action generated by the creative force”.

Testimony is the key word that encapsulates the value of this cycle by the Greek master: on the paper we find prints that physically condense not only the coat-object, but the experience with which that object is charged, of which it is the bearer. They are “sindonic” images, which in their fragmentation, in their appearance and at the same time tearing, become almost tactile, as well as visible, evidence of the pain of a historical period. A testimony that in the dilation of the measures and the freedom with which it occupies the white space, takes on an ascending and “glorious” dimension. A dimension that would certainly not have escaped Giovanni Testori. The challenge of this exhibition is to try to weave a posthumous dialogue between two great protagonists who in different ways left a deep mark on Italian culture and life in the second half of the 20th century. A dialogue that takes place between images and words.

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The Coats are one of the last works by the master of arte povera: 12 carborundum engravings made with the collaboration of the Albicocco Art Printworks in Udine. 
After being exhibited in Rome in 2017 at Palazzo Poli, home of the Central Institute for Graphics, and in Paris at the Lelong Gallery, the complete series of engravings arrived at Casa Testori in a posthumous dialogue with the verses by Giovanni Testori, which accompanied the works. An encounter that never happened and that was thus proposed, in the conviction that these “sindonic” images by Kounellis would certainly have fascinated Testori.

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Posted on: 11 November 2021, by : Alessandro Ulleri
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