Senza titolo, 1973
In 1973, during an era of protest against hypocritical values and reactionary systems, Kounellis placed a suggestive “still life” with fragments of a classical statue on display. Conceptual art was booming; many artists sought to liberate themselves from traditions by “escaping images” – in order to lead to a renewal of art and society.
Kounellis also sees himself as a rebel – but not as an iconoclast. Quite the contrary. As critical as he is poetic, he creates real, new images from fragments of cultural history. His appeal to society is not a break with the past; instead, he points to the deep truths buried in myths – without being conscious of them, collective progress isn’t conceivable. For him, perceiving history is a key to recognizing the present and shaping the future.
This untitled work, the so-called “Apollo”, is one of Kounellis’ main works – and beyond that, the embodyment of an idea of art that leads to insights. The “image” was originally tied to a performance: the artist sat behind the fragments of the Greek statue and held the mask of “Apollo’s” head in front of his face while a flutist played a Mozart melody. A short time later, Kounellis gave the work a different touch by coloring the plaster a sun-hued yellow and, under the influence of Brecht, having Weill played on a cello.
The artist appears here as a creator. He participates in shaping the world with his creative abilities. In front of him lies – metaphorically – a cultural heritage that must be revived. At his side is a visionary bird: an attribute of the God of light and prophecy, Apollo.