Giuseppe Penone, Bifurcation (Set I), 1986
From the Tate Gallery:
Bifurcation1984 (private collection) is a sculpture comprising a forked branch, stripped of leaves and twigs, and a forked bronze structure, reminiscent of bark, which connect at the point of divergence. This set of related Bifurcation drawings, also highlighting the points of simultaneous connection and separation, suggest openings in the human body, such as wounds. For the artist they are the record of significant moments in the growth of the tree, which have developed over the years into forms which transcend their plant origin. Much of Penone’s work is concerned with time as a tranformative agency. Works such as Tree of 12 Metres (see Tate T05557) reverse the processes of time through excavation to resurrect a tree during early stages of its development. While the Bifurcation sculpture externalises the point of connection and divergence through the intersection of two different materials, in the drawings its internal qualities are emphasised.
Penone’s work is an expression of his belief that man and nature are one. In his art-making he emphasises the similarity between the gestures of nature, such as the movement of trees, the action of the wind, the flow of water in streams, and the physical gestures of man. In the early 1980s he produced several Plant gesture sculptures made of bronze. His work during this period likens the making of sculpture to movements in nature (often visible only at infinitesimal speeds) which are working in reaction to and in symbiosis with the structure of the surrounding environment. The traces made by man on the natural world are for Penone only another form of the marks constantly being made by the wind on the trees (breaking branches) or water on stone (wearing it away). ‘The bifurcations of the trees that appear so intimately human to us … The bifurcations of the fingers, by their movement through space, form the branches, the roots, and by the succession of actions in the same points, construct the branches and trunk of the plant. The woodland landscape is the action of sculpture.’
Giuseppe Penone, Tree of 12 Metres, 1980–2
From the Tate Gallery:
Tree of 12 Metres was made by scraping away the wood from a felled tree, which had first been roughly sawn into a beam, to reveal its internal structure of narrow core and developing branches. Penone’s aim was to return the tree to the form it had had at an earlier stage of its growth, making visible natural processes which are normally hidden. He made the first of his Albero or Tree works in 1969. In 1970 two Trees of 12 Metres were made as performances in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and at the Aktionsraum, Munich. These early Trees were still partially attached to the industrially-sawn beams into which they had disappeared and from which they now emerged like sculptural reliefs. In this semi-emergent state they were supported horizontally or propped diagonally against the wall in the space in which they were exhibited. With experience, Penone was able to work on increasingly thicker beams which contained the tree’s entire core and to cut all the background support away, freeing the tree’s centre so that it could stand vertically on its own. In the early 1980s he began to leave short lengths of the beams untouched to provide free-standing bases, from which the forms of the younger trees arise. In this version of the Tree of 12 Metresthe artist has left top and bottom ends still trapped inside the beam. A cut at the vertical mid-point has converted it into two pieces, each of which stands on a base formed by the remnant of the beam. The top part of the tree is thus inverted.
Giuseppe Penone, Breath 5, 1978
From the Tate Gallery:
The clay is modelled on the imagined shape of a breath of air, exhaled from the artist’s mouth. At the top is the form of the interior of Penone’s mouth, squeezed into the clay. The impression along the side of the clay is of the artist’s leg, wearing jeans, as he leans forward. Penone has made many works concerning the impression of man on nature. For ‘Breath’ Penone has spoken of the influence of mythological explanations of the creation of man.
Giuseppe Penone, Svolgere la propria pelle, 1970-71
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Arte Povera was a uniquely Italian variant on the Conceptualism of the late 1960s and early ’70s. In place of skepticism and doubt, artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giovanni Anselmo, Giuseppe Penone, and others showed an unfailing confidence in the possibility of reclaiming the individual from the deadening effects of consumer culture; the group’s critical mouthpiece, Germano Celant, described the artist’s new role as “the free self-projection of human activity.”
In this piece, Penone photographed a glass slide pressed against different parts of his body until he had recorded his entire anatomy; the corporeal fragments (numbering more than one hundred) were then reassembled into a grid of tiny mercator projections mapping his personal landscape. The artist also created versions of this piece as a book and as printed images on photosensitized windows in an exhibition hall.
The Guggenheim wins at social media.
If you’re like me and follow a bunch of museums on places like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc, you might have noticed more than a few posting about Marc Chagall’s birthday, where the museum/institution in question highlighted one of his works in their collection and wished him a happy birthday. I first started seeing these posts on Sunday, and, puzzlingly, they continued into today. When I googled his birthday, Wikipedia told me it was July 6 (Sunday). Why then, I wondered on twitter, were museums posting about it a day late?
As someone who is in charge of social media for a museum, I know how hard it is to monitor your different channels and respond right away. Plus, huge institutions like the Guggenheim, the Met, and the National Gallery must get tons of mentions every hour. I didn’t really expect a reply.
Which set off this chain:
Not only did the Guggenheim respond with a link to their website with his date of birth from their records, but they also promised to look into why the date was different on various websites - way above and beyond the scope of just their social media person.
A few hours later, I got this notification:
I had an answer! From a reputable source, which I could then pass onto all of you:
This is how you do social media well. I’m insanely impressed and was reminded today why I love the internet.