|Profile: Piero Manzoni
Affiliated Movements: Contemporary Art. Minimalism, Earth Art
Walter De Maria
* The placement of other artists in the same category is purely for didactic purposes - any number alternate criteria could result in a different choice. This list is chosen by suggesting other artists, mostly working at the same point in time and whose work might evoke similar questions in the viewer.
Born in Italy (July 13, 1933- Feb.5, 1963), Manzoni was perhaps best known for his prankish proto-conceptual works, namely the naughty 'Merda de L'Artista' or 'Can of Shit' (please excuse the indelicate phraseology!). A worthy contemporary and protegé of Yves Klein, Manzoni was to set the tenor for the later conceptual art of Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria and others. While highly humorous, Manzoni balanced the work out with a very deep philosophical and scientific bent. Examples of this can be see in the work depicted below - 1000m line (a clear reference to and attempt at the recontextualization of scientific standards of measurement*) as well as an interesting reflection upon geometry, frame of reference and anthropometry. While strongly influenced to some degree by Marcel Duchamp, Manzoni introduces a more deeply rational scientific angle, simultaneously confounding the traditional museum and gallery goer - but also drawing strong ties between parallel worlds of endeavour, a somewhat daring feat for the time.
|Artist's Shit (Merda de L'Artista) , 1961
|The Base of the World, 1961
1000m Line, 1961
|Placentarium, Corner Projection
The fascination with standards of measurement and it's relationship to monument and cultural construct run deep in Manzoni's work. Interestingly he was able to recontextualize anthropological aspects of this in his often humorous but deeply philosophical works. The SI system of weights and measures(Système
International) which was introduced in 1795 was based on a 1734 topographical exploration by France to determine the distance between the Equator and North Pole. The resulting METRE or standard unit of distance based on this geocentric model, was defined as one ten-millionth of this total length. Since the mid 20th century, the hegemony of the Système
International could be found in Museums of Natural History everywhere throughout Europe. And so it is that his work '1000m Line,' 'Line of Infinite Length' and 'The Base of the World,' came into being in and around1961.
|Lines of Infinite Length, 1960. Cardboard cannisters, labels.
Manzoni signing nude
|Achrome, 1958-1959, Creased canvas and Kaolin
31 1/2 x 39 3/8 inches (80 x 100 cm)
written and edited by JWD