Marian Goodman Gallery presents two simultaneous exhibitions of works by Giuseppe Penone at the London and Paris galleries. These new exhibitions bring together a selection of works related to the sense of touch and which take their form from specific gestures made by the artist’s hand. Laurent Busine notes: “There is no gesture more intensely Giuseppe Penone’s than the fist: that is, the quantity that a hand can grasp, or that a hand can squeeze and crush, that a hand can hold and keep, or that a hand can stroke and caress.” The works presented in both exhibitions (the titles of which refer to past, future and present) reveal that for Giuseppe Penone gestures and tactile perceptions are connected to individuality and time: “A form without a human gesture is a collective present; with a gesture, it is an individual present.”
The Paris gallery presents a selection of works where Giuseppe Penone makes the human body’s relationship to the natural world palpable with the clear and resonant print of his hand. The golden leaf of Spoglia d’oro (2001) is formed by the artist, leaving the imprints of his palm. In Germinazione (2005), a series of six hanging wall sculptures in acrylic resin, the imprints of the artist’s hands are preserved in casts of tree trunks and branches. The body of work entitled “Avvolgere la terra” (To unfold the earth) (2014) presented in the ground floor gallery combines terracotta with distinct materials such as engobe of quartz color, resin, leather and aluminum. The terracotta shape originates from a simple gesture of the artist’s hands: “the action of unfolding earth with the hands, containing it”. This gesture underlines the intimate, complex connection between humans and nature. “It is the form impressed into the material by the fluid movement of the universe. In a simple handful of clay we have the synthesis of a universal form.”
Giuseppe Penone follows his exploration on the limits of seeing and touching with the depiction of a closed eyelid in Terre (2015) and Pugno di grafite – palpebra (2012). For the artist the closed eyelid gives “the exact definition of the boundaries and space of thought“ and “reflects the fact that one’s body is present inside space”. The handful of terracotta or compressed graphite represents the presence of the body. Playing on the relation between the container and the contained, the sculptures Il vuoto del vaso (2005) installed in the lower gallery, brings together terracotta vases and x-ray plates. While the pots bear witness to the pressure applied on clay, the accompanying x-rays reveal the artist’s hands, making visible an invisible and fleeting process. A series of black and white photographic negatives Geometria nelle mani – 4 aprile (2004) show Penone’s hands holding small geometrical wooden shapes, repeating the gesture he made in 1979 to create the works Cocci. In each photograph, the empty space left between his hands and the object is illuminated, giving space for a new sculpture.