Giuseppe Penone, born in Garessio (Cuneo) in 1947, is one of the most important exponents of the movement Arte Povera. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, where he met Giovanni Anselmo and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
At the age of 21 he participated to his first exhibition at the Deposito d’arte Presente and created the Alpi Marittime series, with which he supported the principle of identity between man and nature. His first series of Alberi date back to 1969, which he created by skinning the wooden beams, following the growth ring of the plant. Over the years he has created several variations that find their logic in the idea of Ripetere il bosco (Repeating the woods). With this title he exhibited several Alberi at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1980 and at the Castello di Rivoli in 1991.
His first solo show at the gallery of Gian Enzo Sperone in 1969 was followed by several exhibitions, such as “Conceptual Art Arte Povera Land Art” at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna in Turin and “Information” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1970.
In Rovesciare i propri occhi (1970) and Svolgere la propria pelle (1971), Penone begins to investigate the relationship between the human body and the external environment. The artist’s imprints on the panes of a window in the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel at the fifth Documenta in 1972 were proof of this research.
With the series Pressione (since 1974) and Palpebre (since 1977) he reflects on the automatic and unconscious image of an imprint, transforming it into conscious and voluntary. He photographs the imprint, projects it on a larger scale on different supports and detects it with charcoal or graphite. In these way, the artists is able to svolgere (to unwind) his own skin on the walls of a space, as he done in the exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum in Lucerne in 1977, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1982 or at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris in 1984.
In 1978, he created the Soffi series, shaping a material form of his own breath. In 1978 the series will be present at the 38th Venice Biennale and in the solo exhibition at the Museum Folkwang in Essen.
In 1982 he began the series of Gesti vegetali and starting from 1987, he created large glass sculptures of fingernails, that he placed in contact with natural materials. The exhibition at the Musée Rodin in Paris in 1988 was entirely dedicated to them.
Several series will follow, such as Trappole di luce (since 1993), Propagazioni (since 1994), Pelle di foglie (1999) and Pelle di marmo e spine d’acacia (since 2000) which were displayed at Musée d’Orsay in Paris and at Fujikawa Gallery in Osaka.
In 2007 he represented Italy at the 52nd Venice Biennale, presenting the work Albero di cuoio.
Sixty years after the beginning of his artistic career, Giuseppe Penone continues to work and live in Turin.