Italian sculptor and conceptual artist. He created his earliest works in a forest outside Garessio in 1968. He marked his presence there with an iron hand gripping a tree trunk (see 1978 exh. cat., p. 33); trees pierced by nails and laced with metal wire; and a plaster slab measuring his width and height and the depth of a brook. The works revealed his interest in establishing points of contact between man and nature. A member of the Arte Povera group, he continued throughout his career to explore the connections between natural and cultural forms. In 12-meter Tree (1969; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.), one of a series, he carefully carved into a beam of wood to recover the original form of a tree, leaving part of the beam untouched to signify its status as a manmade object.
In the early 1970s Penone used his body as his principal subject, projecting images drawn from the surface of his skin on to plaster casts of his face or on to wall surfaces (see 1978 exh. cat., pp. 29–31). In 1975, after uncovering an ancient vase with its maker’s fingerprints still intact, he continued this procedure of transferring images from one surface to another, creating a series of bronze vessels that mingled his own fingerprints with those from the past. Vessels, fingerprints and body images reappeared in a variety of forms and combinations in other work from this decade, along with vegetables grown into the shape of the artist’s face and cast into bronze. In the 1980s he added large agricultural tools made of metal, terracotta and wood to his stockpile of images, as in Hoe (1980; Otterlo, Rijksmus. Kröller-Müller), reaffirming his interest in forms that link man to the natural world.
From Grove Art Online
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