Leading up to a major installation of sculptures at the Chateau de Versailles in Paris, Giuseppe Penone and Marian Goodman Gallery are presenting a selection of past works by the artist, exhibiting a selection of works playing on themes of nature, flux, space and texture. Consisting of large sculptures and wall-mounted works, Penone explores the interplay of gesture and movement within the relatively static forms of the artistic practice, and the elegant exchange between nature and man’s depictions of it.
Throughout the show on view, the ecological is noticeably present. Culling from both recent explorations and much older works, Penone’s work with the shapes and textures of the natural world (tree trunks, branches, seeds) make for strikingly original, captivating forms. Hulking tree trunks are held delicately by a series of arranged branches, all cast in bronze to lend a distinctly surreal air to the final product. These pieces were cast through the use of wax molds, an exhaustive process that mimics the intricate surface of the tree trunk. Playing on the dissonance between sculpture and material, the interiors of the trees are coated in gold leaf, while the bronze exterior has oxidized into a dark brown hue. What results is a return to the natural process, each piece taking on the natural hues and colors of their original models as time passes.
In another set of works on view at the gallery, Penone intermingles bronze works with living plants, adding a slow, vestigial process to his works. Mingling human forms with slowly growing plants, Penone’s Gesto Vegetali grow together, gradually annihilating separate entities and forms in favor of a singular piece that melds natural movement and growth with the sculptural gestures of its creator.
Throughout these works, the raw elements of Penone’s pieces maintain a primacy of intent. Each element, be it mineral, plant or human, welcomes a studied consideration of the interactions between the species and elements these aspects themselves signify. Through his fusions of natural and human forms, Penone projects a closer relationship between organisms, seeking to understand the jointing factors and elements of each. Such is the case with Skin of Leaves, another series of works on view, which use the natural forms of branches and their leafy surfaces to render the human form in a variety of depictions. Through his own artistic operation, Penone draws new parallels into the relationships between man and nature.
An early member of the Arte Povera movement, Penone’s practice has since moved towards the exploration of natural phenomena, and the interjection of the human form. Exploring the fusion of practice and environment, materials and intent, his works on view at Marian Goodman are a complex and challenging inquiry into the act of creation and its interaction with the broader environment. The show closes on June 22nd.