Jannis Kounellis @ Parasol Unit

Parasol Unit presents the solo show of Greek born, Italy based artist Jannis Kounellis. Following the much celebrated solo exhibitions at the Benaki Museum in Athens and Tramway in Glasgow, and organised in line with further exhibitions at the Sprovieri Gallery in London and Blain|Southern in Berlin, the Parasol Unit comprises of some 14 works spanning the gallery’s 2 floors, covering the artist’s career from the 1960s until today.

Much has been said and written about Kounellis’ involvement with the Arte Povera movement in the late 60s. His iconic works encompassing the objet trouvé concept by employing inexpensive media such as burlap, wire, seeds and beans, coal and wood achieved international acclaim. Going a step further he incorporated new exciting media (iron bed frames, meat, fire, smoke) and even live animals while at the same time he emphasised on the unique industrial character of the chosen exhibition locations.

Kounellis’ visual vocabulary has always been dealing with the properties of time and memory, the objective presence and the subjective absence. With references to the domains of migration and relocation in close emotional proximity with his personal recollection of own roots and heritage, his work has been a passionate esoteric journey evoking spiritual progression and contemplation. The exploration of individual as well as collective history and drama has been an immense concatenation of elements throughout his career.

The Parasol Unit exhibition is a synoptic assemblage of Kounellis’ artistic echoes through four and a half decades of these very outlines. A bed frame replacing the canvas with burlap sacks (‘Untitled’, 1969), a miniature train -similar to its de Chirico counterparts- frozen on its course on an iron spiral (‘Untitled’, 1977), a collection of sacks containing coffee beans, corn, lentils and peas (‘Untitled’, 1995), a parade of seven steel panels with wooden tables and chairs (‘Unittled’, 2007) and a large cross of wires and coats (‘Untitled’, 2012) are some of the exhibited works.

Although we can still appreciate Kounellis’ earlier works here and are also given the opportunity to (as the accompanying gallery literature suggests) witness the artist’s “response to them from today’s standpoint” by introducing five new works, we are soon to realise that not much has changed in his visual language. The employment of analogous media and the re-occurrence of same narratives are all reminiscent of an on-going -almost obsessive- artistic idiosyncrasy with no intention to transcend or intensify an apt 21st century response.

In fact, there is no subsequent difference in evolution between the works of Kounellis’ earlier and latest career, which although probably underline the timelessness nature of his subject matter, they sadly fail to advance inspiration and stimulation. These latest works emerge as inanimate time capsules with fossilised emotions. His overconfident and powerful earlier pieces now appear off-balanced and juxtaposed against their own nearly 50 year old shadows.