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Review: 'Neo Povera' at L&M reveals an altered Arte Povera

Arte Povera was one of art history's numerous liberation movements, a concerted, multifaceted effort to shake off the dead weight of prior convention.

Assigned its name in 1967 by the critic and curator Germano Celant, "poor art" adopted humble, ordinary materials, often butting the organic against the inorganic. It sniffed at the market and institutions.

Its leading figures -- Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz, Giuseppe Penone among them -- chimed in with enduring resonance to the broad-based call of the day to unify art and life. To empower art by desanctifying it.

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Over the past half-century, Arte Povera's charged casualness has been assimilated so thoroughly that L&M's "Neo Povera" does not stand out as anything other than a contemporary group show reflecting prevalent sculptural modes of the moment. It features two dozen artists from near and far (including Cordy Ryman, Tara Donovan, Maya Lin, Jedediah Caesar, Marianne Vitale), all of them repurposing common objects: lumber, sugar cubes, coins, sandbags, cash register tape, telephone books.

Anton Zolotov's computer keyboard affixed to a plywood panel, both painted white, has eloquence born simultaneously of Arte Povera's legacy and that of minimalism, language art and the patterns of code. Luca Frei's egg carton stained pale teal and mounted in a gentle arc on worn wood atop fabric atop another panel, exudes a sweet, smart elegance.

Much here is unremarkable -- acts of physical resuscitation lacking real breath and life -- but there is plenty to fuel a discussion of how Arte Povera has become, in a sense, just one more raw material for artists today to consider fair game.

L&M Arts, 660 S. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 821-6400, through July 6. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.lmgallery.com

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