The veins of water that pour from the earth flow in trickles that merge, like the branches in the trunk, like the fingers in the palm of a hand, like the bronze in the matrix of a tree.
Throughout his fifty-year career, Giuseppe Penone has employed a wide range of materials and forms in an exploration of the fundamental language of sculpture. A protagonist of Arte Povera, Penone explores respiration, growth, and aging—among other involuntary processes—to create an expansive body of work including sculpture, performance, works on paper, and photography.
Penone’s early performance-based works evolved in direct response to the forests near his native village of Garessio, Italy, where he interacted with trees, water, and marble. In the Alpi Marittime (Maritime Alps) works (1968), his gestures and interventions left physical traces over extended periods of time: tree trunks were distorted by copper wire, stones, and bronze casts of the artist’s hand; mechanisms made of ropes and deer hides reacted to the weather; and casts of Penone’s face, hands, and feet were immersed in a stream bed.
In 1969 Penone created the first of his Alberi (Trees): “stripped” trees made by carving into mature timbers and removing the wood along the outer growth rings to reveal the memory of a sapling at the core of the trunk. This ongoing series has taken on various permutations as Penone refines his techniques and experiments with different sizes and installations. In 1970 he even carved an Albero in the presence of an audience, merging sculpture and performance. This same year he made the Rovesciare i propri occhi (Reversing One’s Eyes) works, in which he wore custom-made mirrored contact lenses and had himself photographed. The lenses, though they deprived the artist of his own gaze, allowed him to objectively record images, literally reflecting his surroundings.
During this period Penone also began to explore different ways of documenting his work, as well as his body’s interactions with sculpture. In the Svolgere la propria pelle (To Unroll One’s Skin) series (1970–71), he captured the intricate patterns of rock and bark, skin and hair, through frottage (taking rubbings on sheets of paper), imprints (pressing his body into surfaces), and photography. Then, with the Soffi (Breath) works (1977–), Penone attempted to translate into sculpture the ephemeral phenomenon of breath. He took photographs of light powder that he had blown into the air and translated the cloud-like forms into bronze sculptures, drawings, and vase-like constructions.
Essere fiume (To be a River, 1981) marked an important turning point in Penone’s practice. Extracting chunks of stone or marble from the source of a river, he carved them so that they resembled the smaller, smoother stones at the bottom of the riverbed, mimicking the effects of water on the rocks’ shape and size. Then, returning to an investigation of the figure, Penone began the Gesti vegetali (Vegetal Gestures) works (1982–), hollow anthropomorphic sculptures whose forms were based on single gestures or movements.
In the 1990s Penone worked on the Anatomie (Anatomies, 1992–), which included Carrara marble and other stones carved in high relief to echo vascular and muscular systems, as well as the Propagazioni (Propagations, 1995), a series of drawings based on the concentric linear patterns of a fingerprint. Since then he has continued to expand upon many of his earlier series and to work on the Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone) sculptures (2003–), in which he juxtaposes rocks and trees to highlight the balance between verticality and horizontality and the interplay of gravity and growth. Penone has also designed two gardens, one in Turin and one in the Reggia di Venaria in Piedmont.
In Penone’s work, sculptural transformations draw the viewer’s attention to details that have long existed but are easily overlooked. By bringing the grandeur—as well as the modesty and intimacy—of raw but also cultural material into various settings, Penone raises questions about sculpture and its essence.
Extended through November 30, 2019
Foglie di bronzo / Leaves of Bronze
September 12–November 30, 2019
Ramificazioni del pensiero / Branches of Thought
September 5–October 18, 2014
Augurs of Spring
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, Sydney Stutterheim reflects on the iconography and symbolism of the season in art both past and present.
Giuseppe Penone: By the Bay
Elizabeth Mangini writes on Giuseppe Penone’s installation of two sculptures at San Francisco’s Fort Mason.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2020
The Spring 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #412 (2003) on its cover.
Giuseppe Penone at Fort Mason
An outdoor installation by Giuseppe Penone in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason features two life-size bronze sculptures cast from fallen trees. The project continues the artist’s long investigation of the perpetual give-and-take between humans and nature. In this video, Penone discusses what drew him to this landscape and the concepts behind the installation.
Giuseppe Penone: Foglie di bronzo / Leaves of Bronze
Gagosian director Pepi Marchetti Franchi speaks about Giuseppe Penone’s recent exhibition in San Francisco, detailing the various works and their relationships to the artist’s long-standing sculptural practice.
Rain of Light
One year after the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Jean Nouvel and Giuseppe Penone sat down with Alain Fleischer, Pepi Marchetti Franchi, and Hala Wardé to reflect on how the museum and Penone’s commissioned artworks for the space came to be.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Talks
Giuseppe Penone and Carlos Basualdo
Giuseppe Penone discusses his new monograph, The Inner Life of Forms, with the book’s editor Carlos Basualdo, senior curator of contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, at the Greene Space, New York. Hosted by art critic Deborah Solomon.
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2018
The Winter 2018 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available. Our cover this issue comes from High Times, a new body of work by Richard Prince.
Behind the Art
Ideas of Stone
In the small skiing village of Gstaad, among the towering mountains of the Swiss Alps, lies a surprising and ambitious exhibition of sculpture by Giuseppe Penone. Susan Ellicott tells the story of how this installation came to be.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
The Inner Life of Forms
Giuseppe Penone speaks with Carlos Basualdo and Pepi Marchetti Franchi about his upcoming monograph.
March 25–September 12, 2021
Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy
Giuseppe Penone’s Abete (Fir) is installed in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, to celebrate Dantedì, the day dedicated to the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, and the 700th anniversary of his death. The trunk and branches are made of cast stainless steel, encircled by a lattice with eighteen cast bronze elements. At just over 72 feet high, Penone’s sculpture is the largest ever installed in a public space in Florence and anticipates an upcoming exhibition of his work at the Gallerie degli Uffizi entitled Alberi In-versi (Trees In-Verses), opening June 1.
Giuseppe Penone, Abete (Fir), 2013, installation view, Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 1pm EST
Join Gagosian for a conversation between Giuseppe Penone and Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. The pair will discuss the artist’s practice, which is deeply engaged with nature and time, as well as his outdoor installation in San Francisco. Two large-scale bronze sculptures cast from trees—La logica del vegetale (The Logic of the Vegetal) (2012) and Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone) (2004)—are dramatically installed in Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, through March 28, 2021.
Giuseppe Penone, Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone), 2004, installation view, Fort Mason, San Francisco, 2019–2021 © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Matthew Millman
La rivoluzione siamo noi
Collezionismo italiano contemporaneo
Through June 10, 2021
XNL Piacenza Contemporanea, Italy
XNL Piacenza Contemporanea, a new cultural center dedicated to contemporary art, presents its inaugural exhibition, whose title translates to We Are the Revolution: Contemporary Italian Collecting. The show features more than 150 works from eighteen of the most important art collections in Italy. Giuseppe Penone is creating a site-specific piece for the exhibition, and work by Urs Fischer, Ellen Gallagher, Piero Manzoni, and Andy Warhol is also included.
Giuseppe Penone, Propagazione (Propagation), 2020 © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Mauro Del Papa
Field of Dreams
Through August 31, 2021
Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York
Field of Dreams activates the Parrish Art Museum’s expansive meadows with sculpture by ten international, multigenerational artists that engages and responds to the museum’s architecture and landscape. Created to extend the galleries outdoors, the exhibition series is part of the Parrish’s new Art in the Meadow initiative that enlivens its 14-acre grounds with artworks, performances, and projections. Work by Theaster Gates, Roy Lichtenstein, and Giuseppe Penone is included.
Theaster Gates, Monument in Waiting, 2020, installation view, Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York © Theaster Gates. Photo: courtesy GRAY, Chicago/New York
February 21, 2020–January 11, 2021
Centre Pompidou-Metz, France
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Centre Pompidou-Metz has invited Giuseppe Penone to install a new original work: a 49-foot-tall cast-bronze sculpture of a walnut tree (whose title translates to Indistinct Boundaries), with some sections and branches made of white marble.
Giuseppe Penone, Indistinti confini—Noce, 2017, installation view, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Jacqueline Trichard/Centre Pompidou-Metz
Dessins, Gravures, et Sculptures
March 28, 2020–January 3, 2021
Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, France
This exhibition, whose title translates to Drawings, Etchings, and Sculptures, consists of two large sculptures, thirty original drawings, and seven engravings by Giuseppe Penone.
Giuseppe Penone, Una pelle di foglie, 1999 © Giuseppe Penone