Luxembourg & Dayan- "Contingencies: Arte Povera and After"

Arte Povera, contemporary art, Chennie Huang

Installation view of Contingencies: Arte Povera and After, Luxembourg & Dayan, New York, 2017.
Photo: Andrew Romer.
Courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan

On view now until December 16th, Luxembourg & Dayan, New York, presents Contingencies: Arte Povera and After, in celebration of the semi-centennial of Arte Povera Movement.  In an attempt to translate the core concept of this historic movement with a present perspective, this exhibition brings together works by contemporary artists in conjunction with the original works produced by the Arte Povera artists throughout the 60s and the 70s.

This exhibition is refreshingly different from the other recent exhibitions of Arte Povera is that it testifies to the enduring influence of the movement on contemporary artists.  Focusing on one of the many aspects of which defines the historic movement, the comparison between the post-war modern and the contemporary emphasizes the experimentation with the every-day and the industrial objects, and how the objects' transform with natural occurrences.

Carlos Reyes, We give back credit, Chennie Huang

Carlos Reyes, We give back credit, 2015/2017, Industrial fan, bread,
27 1⁄4 x 17 1⁄2 in. each (69.2 x 44.45 cm.),
Installation dimensions variable ©Carlos Reyes
Courtesy White Flag Projects, St. Louis

Pier Paolo Calzolari, Untitled, Occhio di Dio

Pier Paolo Calzolari, Untitled (Occhio di Dio), 1971,
Tobacco, neon, transformer, candle, 81 x 45 1⁄4 x 3 1⁄5 in. (206 x 115 x 8 cm.)
©Archivio Fondazione Calzolari
Courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery
Photo: Jason Wyche

In his essay Arte Povera, 1969, later translated in English as Arte Povera: Conceptual, Actual or Impossible Art? in London, Germano Celant writes: " ... [A]rt begins creating to place itself as a possibility in material (vegetable, animal, mineral and metal); its own dimension that identifies itself with knowledge and perception, becomes 'living art,' that fantastic existence continually at variance with daily reality that opposes the building of art, ..."

"We give back credit," 2015 / 2017 by Carlos Reye presents two loaves of bread tightly wedged and pushed through the casings of two industrial fans.  The artist's choice and manipulation of his materials, and the piece's formal appearance is reminiscent of Arte Povera aesthetic, that is also anti-aesthetic.  In the context of this exhibition, the combination of food, in this case, bread that is consumed as one of the staple diets, with industrial fans that are omnipresent in factories represents the cycle of a modern life that necessitates one to eat and to work.  

'Povera" in Arte Povera although means "poor" in English, but mainly implies to the use of "ordinary and affordable" materials rather than the precious.  In turn, the every-day life and the making of art become inseparable.  Here, the intention is to create "living art" as oppose to inanimate objects.  For instance, Pier Paolo Calzolari's "Untitled (Occhio di Dio)," 1971, integrates tobacco leaves that change color and dry out as time passes, with a neon light haloing around a lit candle that is burning shorter and shorter each day.  This idea of incorporating malleable "living" elements with man-made objects is still explored by contemporary artists.

Contemporary Art, Olga Balema

Olga Balema, Untitled, 2014,
Steel, plastic tub, waterpump, water, leggings bought at market in Shanghai,
15 x 27 1⁄2 x 12 5⁄8 in. (38 x 70 x 32 cm.) © Olga Balema
Courtesy the artist and Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles

Olga Balema's "Untitled," 2014 features a water-pump constantly watering over a steel structure that is gradually rusting over time.  Although, this physical presence of an object in flux is like Arte Povera's "living art," but her use of materials reflects on a contemporary life that is complicated by the merging of global culture and economy.  Draped on top of the rusted steel structure is a pair of leggings purchased from Shanghai, this gesture speaks to the exportation of menial labor, and its social and environmental impact.  By including contemporary works with historic Arte Povera works, Luxembourg & Dayan establishes a dialogue that links the past with the present.  The exhibition also highlights the enduring relevance of ideas behind the Italian post-war art movement in contemporary art, life and politics.  

*Germano Celant, "Arte Povera, Milan, 1968," in Art in Theory 1900-2000: an Anthology of Changing Ideas (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 897-900.

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