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A spectator not accustomed to conceptual art might find the recently installed work by Italian Jannis Kounellis at the Main Gate Hangar in the Jaffa port difficult to handle. Kounellis (born in Pireaus, Greece in 1936 and living in Rome since 1956) made a name for himself when, in 1967, he joined the arte povera (poor art) movement in Italy, initiated by critic Germano Celant. Poor art refers to the use of humble materials - both antique and modern, man-made and organic - in the making of a piece.
After a stint with modernist painting, Kounellis began to challenge the edicts of classical art and introduce found objects such as live animals, burlap, coal, trolleys, smoke and odd pieces of furniture into his works. His current installation contains 12 clusters of 12 old wooden chairs in a circular format. In each circle, under the dismal light of a specially erected street lamp, Kounellis has created a series of visual conundrums: a pile of earth, scores of black shoes, large cloth bundles or sewing machines on each chair, or the chalk outline of a body from a crime scene are the kinds of ciphers the viewer is exposed to. What they mean belongs to the imagination of the person moving between the circles. And why 12? Are they the Apostles, a representation of the zodiac, or possibly a reference to Israel's tribes? Or do they merely reflect on the relationship between art and life?
Jannis Kounellis, Main Gate Hangar, Jaffa Port. Information on opening hours: (03) 681-6834.