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.