Enrico Castellani

Superficie angolare bianca (White Corner Surface)

Castellani Superficie Angolare Bianca White Corner Surface Heart – Herning Museum Of Contemporary Art 1500 - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
  • Enrico Castellani
  • Superficie angolare bianca (White Corner Surface)
  • 1961
  • Acrylic on canvas with reliefs and hollows
  • 70 x 20 x 70 cm
  • HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

Superficie angolare bianca (1961) and Superficie angolare nera (1961) are important milestones in Enrico Castellani’s transition from a painter of gestural abstraction to a creator of spatially oriented monochrome canvases. These works demonstrate the visual effect when light is cast into corners of different colors, in this case opposites on the light spectrum, white and black. By casting shadows within the space of each canvas, these paintings emphasize the shape of the room. Castellani studied architecture before embarking on a career that redefined the notion of painting. Exploring the sculptural and geometric aspects of works on canvas, he shifted his artistic focus from individual expression to a universal and concrete materiality. These two works, Superficie angolare bianca and Superficie angolare nera, exemplify this shift by abandoning the flat surface of a traditional canvas and instead folding it into an interior corner, thereby creating a dynamic relationship between work of art and architectural space.

By thus recasting the role of the canvas, Castellani also fundamentally altered the painting’s relationship to the viewer. Instead of providing an illusionistic view into another space, as through a window, he oriented the painting’s surface to the space in which it was displayed. Rather than a mode of escape, the work of art became an autonomous form, an object to be confronted. The unceasing task of facing material on its own terms was the underlying principle of concrete art, a challenge Castellani assumed often in his series of sculptural canvases that occupied the third dimension – the viewer’s space.

Megan Hines

Biography of Enrico Castellani

  • Born 1930 in Castelmassa, Italy
Enrico Castellani received his diploma from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Brera Art Academy) in Milan in 1952. Afterward he studied both art (at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts [Royal Academy of Fine Arts) and architecture (at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre [National School of Visual Arts of the Cambre) in Brussels. Castellani resettled in Milan in 1956, where he met contemporary artists such as Piero Manzoni (1933–1963) and Lucio Fontana (1899–1968). In 1959 Castellani and Manzoni founded the critical journal Azimuth and the Galleria Azimut, where Castellani held his first solo show in 1960. Castellani’s non-referential, self-reflexive art practice treated the canvas as an object. He showed his first relief monochromes, “Superficie nera” (Black Surface in Relief), in 1959, for which he created depressions on the canvas with a nail gun. He would continue to use methods like puncturing and embossing to create rhythmic spatial reliefs. Castellani further explored perceptual effects in his “Angolare” (Angular) series (1960–65), comprised of corner-shaped canvases deformed by concave and convex shapes. In 1967 he produced Ambiente bianco (White Environment), his first room-sized installation. In the early 1960s he became associated with the German artist group ZERO and was included in several ZERO exhibitions. He represented Italy in the Venice Biennale in 1964, 1966, 1984 and 2003