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.
Photo: Manuel Lagos Cid/Paris Match Archive/Getty Images
Extended through November 30, 2019
Foglie di bronzo / Leaves of Bronze
September 12–November 30, 2019
January 30–March 23, 2018
Idee di Pietra
December 13, 2017–March 30, 2018
Extended through June 15, 2017
January 27–June 15, 2017
Leaves of Stone / Foglie di pietra
January 21–March 12, 2016
Spazio di luce
May 2–June 6, 2015
Ramificazioni del pensiero / Branches of Thought
September 5–October 18, 2014
April 11–May 31, 2014
Britannia Street, London
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.
Giuseppe Penone: Ephemeris
In Giuseppe Penone: ephemeris we get a glimpse of his process as he explores some of the ideas behind Equivalenze.
Thursday, October 17, 2019, 5:30pm
Palais d’Iéna, Paris
Giuseppe Penone will speak with Germano Celant about his exhibition Matrice di linfa, opening at the Palais d’Iéna, Paris, on October 15, on the occasion of FIAC 2019. The event is free to attend.
Giuseppe Penone in his studio, Turin, Italy, 2016. Photo: Angela Moore
Giuseppe Penone at Fort Mason
October 24, 2019–October 25, 2020
Fort Mason, San Francisco
Gagosian presents a yearlong outdoor installation by Giuseppe Penone in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason. Two sculptures by Penone—La logica del vegetale (The Logic of the Vegetal) (2012) and Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone) (2004)—will be installed in Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. This project is presented in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the Art in the Parks program. To attend the opening reception on Thursday, October 24, from 5 to 6:30pm, RSVP to email@example.com.
Giuseppe Penone, Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone), 2004, installation view, Fort Mason, San Francisco, 2019 © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Matthew Millman
Giuseppe Penone at Fort Mason
Thursday, October 24, 2019, 5–6:30pm
Great Meadow, Fort Mason, San Francisco
As the sun sets over the San Francisco Bay, join us to celebrate the opening of a yearlong public installation of two large-scale bronze sculptures by Giuseppe Penone in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason. The evening will include brief remarks by Gagosian’s Charlie Spalding with a drinks reception to follow. To attend the free event, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giuseppe Penone, Idee di pietra (Ideas of Stone), 2004, installation view, Fort Mason, San Francisco, 2019 © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Archivio Penone
Nous les arbres
Through January 5, 2020
Fondation Cartier, Paris
Organized around several large ensembles of works, this exhibition, whose title translates to We, the Trees, gives voice to numerous figures who have developed a strong, intimate link with trees, thereby revealing the beauty and biological wealth of these great protagonists of the living world, threatened today with large-scale deforestation. Work by Giuseppe Penone and Adriana Varejão is included.
Adriana Varejão, Cadernos de viagem: Yãkoana, 2003 © Adriana Varejão. Photo: Patrick Grie
Giuseppe Penone in
Through January 6, 2020
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome
This show, whose title translates to Sublime Anatomies, reveals the astounding nature of the human body, exploring the common ground between art and science through artistic and scientific works, including artifacts and documents, which illustrate the evolution of human anatomical study and its close relation to contemporary artistic research. Work by Giuseppe Penone is included.
Installation view, Sublimi anatomie, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, October 22, 2019–January 6, 2020. Artwork, left to right: © Yvonne Rainer; © 2019 Giuseppe Penone/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Monkeys VideoLab
Pompei e Santorini
l’eternità in un giorno
Through January 6, 2020
Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome
Pompeii and Santorini: Eternity in a Day offers a comparison between two ancient sites whose entire societies were buried by eruptions—Pompeii and Santorini. Through themes of catastrophe and rebirth, visitors explore how natural disasters become inspiration for art. Work by Damien Hirst, Giuseppe Penone, and Andy Warhol is included.
Installation view, Pompei e Santorini: l’eternità in un giorno, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, October 11, 2019 –January 6, 2020. Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Studio Idini
Through June 28, 2020
Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz, Saarbrücken, Germany
Giuseppe Penone’s aesthetics are based on a dialogue with nature and its forces and revolve around the question of the limits of one’s own body and perception. Included in this eponymous exhibition is the multipart expansive sculpture Coteccia (1983), which is presented in Germany for the first time.
Giuseppe Penone, Ripetere il bosco (To Repeat the Forest), 1969–97 © Giuseppe Penone/2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Archivio Penone