Kounellis' sheets of metal are like fragments rediscovered, encountered many times, acknowledged as the inspirational basic material for his works, for the construction of his landscape dominated by the heaviness/lightness which I have already mentioned. The artist associates the metal sheets and the materials with processes that are not casual, but seem to follow a precise pattern, which establishes the rhythm of the individual work. The material is inserted between the sheets of metal, it is imprisoned on them, it often seems compressed between a girder and the iron surface. It is all linked to the narrative nature of the work, in which the metal sheets serve as pages to recount a story, a situation, an existential or societal moment. The metal represents the "wall" on which to construct this story, with the rust visible here and there highlighting time and its passing, the temporary state of things, but also giving an unpredictable pattern to the work's support, which is already itself part of the work. And let's not forget the handprints on the metal sheets (of the men who have carried them) that Kounellis does not want to eliminate, almost as if sealing, yet again, the presence of man in his universe.
The sheets of iron with the coal sacks held by the girders were realised in large number to fill an enormous space at the Venice Biennale: an exhibition as impressive as it is famous and widely published, as vibrant as it is astonishing.
Our installation is the prototype executed by the artist specifically for the Biennale in 1988. For a careful collector, this element translates into a quality that is special, which is added to the power, incisiveness and beauty of this work, which best expresses the language of this great artist who contributed to making Arte Povera known worldwide. From the hardness of the materials used, it is difficult to make the harmony and even what I call "the beauty" emerge. Kounellis effortlessly succeeds.
Well lit, the work has its own physiognomy dominated by the sparkle of the coal that appears here and there on the sacks, and on which the refraction of the light creates a special effect, as on the iron sheets in contrast with the sacks imprisoned by the girders.
In half-light, the work is different: still a powerful presence, which releases energy, but laden with its own drama that seems to stem from the origins of the material it safeguards in the sacks: coal. Its great usefulness in providing heat, but the difficult, laborious human path in its extraction from the mines.
There is almost always a social, "public" value in Kounellis' works: although he doesn't appear directly, man is at the centre of his thought, of his creative cosmos, of his heart as an artist. Perhaps it is for this reason that his works, sometimes seemingly hard and cold, succeed in penetrating us with a strange, unexpected sensation of warmth.