Details & Cataloguing

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Giuseppe Penone
B. 1947
copper and bronze on cement base
185.3 by 240 by 100 cm. 76 7/8 by 94 1/2 by 39 3/8 in.
Executed in 1983-88.
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Galerie Durant-Dessert, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988


Bologna, Villa delle Rose, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Penone, November 1989 - January 1990, p. 44, illustrated


Germano Celant, Ed., Penone, Milan 1989, p. 173, illustrated

Catalogue Note

I Colori dei Temporali (The Colour of Storms) is an outstanding example of Giuseppe Penone’s oeuvre, multifaceted and mysterious as the natural world from which he draws his genius. Cast in bronze from the original tree trunk on which the copper slab had been laid on in 1983, the texture is perfectly replicated. The colour of the bark is also replicated in the most realistic way possible bringing the viewer to question the actual materiality of the sculpture. Through the present work, Penone wants the viewer to look into the action and reaction that the man-placed slab of copper executed on the growth of the tree, bringing to the fore one of the artist’s key concerns; the relationship between men and nature. Here, the artist lyrically reminds the viewer that nature – the living tree – will continue to grow despite human intervention.

Invited in 1969 by Germano Celant to contribute to the movement defining book, Arte Povera, Penone published his renowned work Alpi Marittime, from 1968, a collection of photographs documenting the actions of the artist in the woods near his hometown, with the intent of interacting with the process of the growth of the trees. It is from this debut work that Penone took inspiration from for I Colori dei Temporali. Penone directly intervenes into the growth process of the trees: he penetrates them with a sculpted model of his hand, he affixes bronze branches to the trunk, he alters its course of growth by imposing weights onto it or, as in this case, he lays a slab of copper to its trunk. The work is only complete after the passing of time however, highlighting the organic process and natural response of the tree to human intervention: “The tree, its emotional, formal and cultural significance having been lost and consumed, becomes a vital element in expansion, in proliferation and in continuous growth. To its ‘force’ was added another ‘force’, which is mine. Its reaction is the work” (Giuseppe Penone cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Haunch of Vension, Giuseppe Penone, May - August 2011, p. 59). Penone’s aim is not to alter the growth of the tree with the sole purpose of deforming it; he is rather trying to trace the correlation between the passing of time and the growth of the tree, both invisible to the naked eye. He captures it. Not being able to visualise it, he leaves us with only the traces. Through these traces the sense of the distinction between fluid and rigid is lost. Wood, in our experience, is a hard and rigid material, used for constructions and support of all sorts. In nature however, it is a fluid material, in constant growth and alteration.

In I Colori dei Temporali, the final result is the fruit of a unique reciprocal condition, a quasi-collaboration between the artist and Mother nature. Penone wants us to question what we see and look at with a different prospective. He intervenes on nature in order to bring us beyond the pre-established notions of materiality that we are used to and traces what we could not see otherwise.

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