Alberto Biasi’s Delightfully Disorienting, Optically Challenging Art
Along with movements such as Germany’s Zero Group and America’s Anonima Group, the members of the Italian Gruppo Enne were pioneers in reinventing the possibilities for retinal art in the mid-20th century. Using constructivist and optical art methods, Group Enne produced works that were neither flat nor sculptural, animated nor still. At New York’s De Buck Gallery, Alberto Biasi presents his first solo exhibition in the Americas in more than 40 years, providing a dense and rich retrospective of his groundbreaking art.
Biasi was one of the founding members of Gruppo Enne (“N Group,” or “New Group”), one of the first movements of kinetic sculpture and op art. His new exhibition, “Unlimited Perception” features work from two of his best-known series “Optico-dynamic relief” and “Torsions,” and gives an overview of his artistic development from the 1970s to the present. Encased in wood frames, Biasi’s optically challenging images are realized through layering strips of PVC over dynamic paintings in vibrant colors, causing the forms to appear to change as the viewer shifts their perspective. Vantage point is fundamental to Biasi’s art, although he eschews naturalistic, linear perspective. “I began to criticise perspective because it had an egocentric conception of the world,” says Biasi. “It was based on the point of view of man. But for me, reality was far more complex.”
In Biasi’s “Optico-dynamic Relief” series, he creates complex moiré-like patterns by layering strips of colored PVC. Gocce a Sottomarina (1979) figuratively alludes to the ripples made by rain falling on open water, interweaving 15 concentric circles in a grid. As the viewer moves past the image it changes and the ripples become animated and interact with one another. Similar to bas-reliefs by Jesús Rafael Soto, Biasi’s work activates seemingly still images and plays with viewers’ perceptions.
In circo (2000) is more playful, alternating monochromatic and colored diamonds and circles that revolve around a large central circle, similar to a circus’s main ring. Although much of his work uses a restrained palette, In circo, along with Dinamiche Cangianti (1996) and 8-8 + celeste (1992) display Biasi’s radical use of color, layering hues in glowing unexpected rhythms that expand, contract, and swirl. Like other artists in Gruppo Enne, such as Manfredo Masseroni, Ennio Chiggio, Edoardo Landi, and Toni Costa, Biasi often used color sparingly but dramatically.
Like Costa, Biasi employed the unconventional diamond-shaped format for his works, eschewing the traditional rectangular picture plane. Such devices go back at least to Theo Van Doesburg, whose constructivist work was among Gruppo Enne’s inspirations. In works such as Variable Square Image (ca. 1980), Variable Round Image (1990), and Uno e Trino in nero (2005), Biasi uses shapes including circles, triangles, diamonds, and ovals to form the picture and set the compositional structure of his work. The device, in part, encourages the viewer to participate with the art and its atypical, disorienting form. In all of his work, Biasi seeks both to entice and to bewilder, inviting viewers to reconsider staid and stable notions about art.
“Unlimited Perception” is on view at De Buck Gallery, New York, Mar. 26–May 2, 2015.