- Michael Davis
- 8 August 2012
An eerie, uneasy sculpture show from the Arte Povera figurehead
As part of Tate's Artist Rooms touring collection, Tramway presents this exhibition of old and new works by Jannis Kounellis. As one of the most influential figures of the 1960s movement, Arte Povera, or poor art, Kounellis uses installations of everyday materials and simplistic processes in a material language, with the formal concerns of balance, weight and light. This show is industrial, both in size and reference, with a gridded layout in which the restrained selection of materials repeat throughout: steel, coal, black hats and coats, meat hooks and bells. The show responds well to the Tramway gallery, with towering steel I-beams welded like tank traps set atop Persian rugs running the length of the hall, beside a series of huge and ominously bulging sacks like a dysfunctional manufacturing line hanging from the roof. Steel panels on the top wall display a tableau of three-quarter length mens black coats, frozen in awkward positions on meat hooks. The last coat in the line is held with arms out stretched, like a crucifixion.
The show has an eerie and uneasy atmosphere, an absence of some kind, with a private vocabulary of signifiers and motifs, as well as a physical absence, like some memorial to forgotten industry and the death of a working man. Kounellis achieves an alchemical arrangement of these basic materials into something rarer, into an augmented reality in which the habits of our perception are confused, finding beauty in the mundane.
Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 23 Sep.