Luciano Fabro is a leading figure in Arte Povera (“poor art”), a movement that emerged in Italy in the mid-1960s. These artists broke with tradition by focusing on process over product and by making their work from nontraditional materials such as found objects, plants, and other organic substances.
In this work Fabro focuses on the myth of Sisyphus, a Corinthian king who was banished to the underworld and condemned by Zeus to forever roll an enormous boulder up a steep hill, only to have it plummet downward each time it reaches the top.
Fabro’s Sisyphus contains a self-portrait of the artist incised into a cylindrical volume of marble that is rolled over a bed of flour to create a “drawing.” As in the legend, this action must be repeated in order for the sculpture to be made, linking Sisyphus' never-ending task to the ongoing work of an artist in his studio. By using marble and flour as his materials, Fabro speaks to both the high-art tradition of Italian sculpture and to Arte Povera’s fascination with nontraditional art materials.