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 Giovanni Anselmo  (1934 - )

About: Giovanni Anselmo


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Lived/Active: Italy      Known for: found object sculpture, 'Art Povera'

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Biography from Tate Modern/Tate Gallery, London:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Giovanni Anselmo (b. 1934, Borgofranco d'Ivrea), divides his time between Turin and the volcanic island of Stromboli.  It was while walking on Mount Stromboli at dawn in 1965 that he was suddenly struck by the realization that he was merely a tiny detail in the vast continuum of universal energy.

This epiphany was to inspire his many works investigating the finite and the infinite, the microcosm and the macrocosm, and the elemental laws and forces of nature - gravity, tension, magnetism and energy. A wide range of organic and inorganic materials including vegetables, water, electricity, granite, iron and plastic are brought together in combinations that strikingly demonstrate these forces.

In Torsion, 1968, for example, a leather loop set in a concrete block is tightly twisted and fixed in place with a wooden bar.  This work literally traps energy. Similarly, in Untitled, 1967, a large sheet of Perspex is held taut in a curved shape by an iron fastening. Another presentation of tension and gravity is provided by Untitled, 1968 - also known as Eating Structure. In this work, a head of lettuce is squashed between a large standing block of granite and a smaller one, secured by a copper wire. If the lettuce is allowed to dry out, the wire will lose tension and the small stone will fall. The sculpture must therefore be constantly 'fed' with new lettuces. Anselmo also works with artist's books, drawings, photography and slide projections.


Biography from Walker Art Center:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Work by Anselmo in the Walker Art Center Collection:

Direzione (Direction)
Giovanni Anselmo
schist, magnetic compass, glass

"I, the world, things, life--we are points of energy, and it is not as necessary to crystallize these points as it is to keep them open and alive."--Giovanni Anselmo

Giovanni Anselmo was one of the founders of Arte Povera ("poor art"), a movement that emerged in Italy in the mid-1960s. These artists sought to make art in which the object was inseparable from the creative process, and which employed nontraditional materials such as found objects, plants, and other organic substances.

In Direzione, a compass is embedded in a granite wedge, evoking the properties of gravity and magnetism, both of which help orient us in the physical world. When exhibited, the triangular stone points north, a direction derived from the natural laws of the universe. Thus the work seems to continue beyond the bounds of the visible.

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