Giovanni Anselmo (Italian, b.1934) is a self-taught artist known for his sculptural installations created under the Arte Povera movement. He was born in Borgofranco d’Ivrea, Italy, and ended up splitting his professional time between Turin and Stromboli, Italy. After working as a painter from 1959 to 1964, Anselmo turned to Conceptual Art in 1965, and, by 1968, joined the Italian art movement known as Arte Povera (or “impoverished art”), the most influential avant-garde movement of the 1960s.

The name for this movement was coined by Germano Celant in 1967 to identify a handful of mainly Italian artists who opposed the popularity of abstract painting that had been dominating Europe. Along with Anselmo, artists like Alighiero Boetti and Pino Pascali joined together with a common conceptual idea: to create art opposed to Modernism and technology. The artists of the Arte Povera movement frequently juxtaposed unrelated objects in their works: Ordinary pre-industrial materials would be placed alongside modern, processed materials—the old next to the new. These creations were not always easily understood or explained, and often evoked social issues of the time.

Anselmo contributed a great deal to the Arte Povera movement, focusing his art on abstract concepts. He often used his work to emphasize that things are not always what they seem, and that one should always question the world around them. An untitled work from 1988 shows a large piece of granite held by a steel cord to the top of a white canvas; the granite appears unstable as though it could fall at any moment, but it is, in fact, quite secure. He is also known for his use of written text, seen in his work Infinity (1970), in which his messages are projected by light into empty space. His messages can only be read by walking into the light of the projections, otherwise they remain invisible.

Anselmo’s first solo exhibition was in 1968 at the Galleria Sperone in Milan, Italy. Since then, his works have been exhibited throughout Europe, the United States, Asia, and Australia. He participated in the Venice Biennales of 1978, 1980, and 1990, where he received the Leone d’Oro award.

Exhibitions

2009
1968. Die große Unschuld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany (group)
2009
Wall Works (Giovanni Anselmo, Daniel Buren, Lawrence Carroll, Mario Merz, Felice Varini, Lawrence Weiner), Buchmann Lugano, Agra/ Lugano
2008–2009
Heavy Metal, Kunsthalle Kiel, Kiel, Germany