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280 × 210 mm
208 pages
Paperback with flaps
154 illustrations, 27 in colour
01 May 2003

Jannis Kounellis Stephen Bann

Over the past 40 years, sculptor and installation artist Jannis Kounellis has established himself as a unique presence in the world of contemporary art. His work, whether included in temporary exhibitions or placed in semi-permanent installations, invariably lingers in the memory because of its forceful character and its ability to transform its immediate environment. Stephen Bann refers to Kounellis’s working practice as a process of ‘making strange’. In all his installations, the material impact of the work sets off a trail of associations. Potent examples include his 1969 installation of twelve tethered live horses in a gallery in Rome, the city where the prototypes of the equestrian monuments of Antiquity can still be seen, or his 1975 Civil Tragedy installation in which a hat-stand with black hat and coat against a gold-leaf background lit by a small lamp recalled the café society of Central Europe against a wall of Byzantine splendour.

As an artist, Kounellis has found his special location in Rome. At the age of 20, he made the journey there from Piraeus, the ancient port of Athens, and began his career. His works continue to bear the hallmarks of his Eastern Mediterranean origin, as well as testifying to his concern with the links between Russian Modernism and the Byzantine tradition.

Stephen Bann has not set out to write a conventional monograph about the artist. Rather, he looks at the underlying mechanisms in Kounellis’s practice, suggesting the ways in which they are important in the broader context of late modernist art. He outlines the distinctive way in which Kounellis takes account of space as a necessary preliminary to working within it, and discusses the historical and cultural dimension to which Kounellis lays claim.

‘Bann is particularly well equipped for his task because of his long engagement with Kounellis’s work, that goes back to the moment when he came across a Kounellis installation at the 1972 Kassel Documenta. His analysis plays itself out by way of a series of encounters with Kounellis’s art as displayed at exhibitions over the past three decades. Bann tells the story of these encounters, skillfully weaving them into a larger discussion of the role played by memory, transformation and the specificities of place in Kounellis’s project.’ – Alex Potts, Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan

‘This is a book with interesting itineraries and it is a tribute to the author as a writer that the artist himself and his work are not dwarfed by the surrounding material. It is an immensely stimulating book . . . it will help not just a greater understanding of one’s artistic achievement, but ways of looking at contemporary art that will make reconnections with European traditions of representation easier.’ – Andrew Causey, Department of Art and Architecture, University of Manchester

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Stephen Bann is Professor in the Department of History of Art at the University of Bristol, and has published widely in the field of contemporary art. He is co-editor of Interpreting Contemporary Art (Reaktion, 1991), editor of Frankenstein, Creation and Monstrosity (Reaktion, 1994) and author of Romanticism and the Rise of History (1995) and Paul Delaroche: History Painted (Reaktion, 1997).