Piero Simondo was an Italian artist, famous for the role he played in the Situationist International.
The ‘poor’ of that epithet refers to the materials.
I’ve always thought of ‘arte povera’ as a bit of a non-concept.
It is exemplary of that 20th century mania of coining names for invented new art movements.
Think surrealism, dada, popart, post-popart, avant garde, post-avantgarde, nouveau réalisme, neomodern, remodern, metamodern, postminimal, stuckism, neoism, op art, fluxus.
Oh please stop already.
But then again, I like the cover of the 1969 book that made the term arte povera known around the world.
I wanted to check the book out, since my university has it in its library.
However, this being corona-time, the library is closed.
“Before the ocean and the earth appeared— before the skies had overspread them all— the face of Nature in a vast expanse was naught but Chaos uniformly waste. It was a rude and undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap.” (trans.Brookes More)
490 years ago Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto produced the image above. The design is a representation of chaos and is entitled Magnum Chaos. It is an intarsia made for a church choir in Bergamo, North Italy. It feels very modern today.
It’s a nice example of the eye as independent body part, the eye carried forth by two legs and two feet and in control of both arms and hands.
It is also an example of a what we in Dutch call a ‘kopvoeter’ (lit. headfooter) or a ‘koppoter’ (lit. headlegger), a style of drawing made by children from about age three in which people are drawn without a body and with arms emerging directly from the head. (see Child_art#Pre-symbolism, belly face and body image.)
They are called bodyheads in English. See update.
Apparently, Rudolf Steiner says something about child art and ‘bodyheads’ in Allgemeine Menschenkunde als Grundlage der Pädagogik, 1919, but I have been unable to find out what.
And other grotesques of course.
The image shown above is upside down from the original at Bergamo.
Update 20/2/14: A possible English translation of kopvoeter and koppoter is bodyhead, a neologism coined by English artist Paul Rumsey and given as the title to a number of prints.