Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Dadamaino, Turi Simeti, and Paolo Scheggi are five pivotal artists who helped define the Italian vanguard of the 1960s—and this June, their works will inaugurate Almine Rech Gallery’s new space in London. “Pittura Oggetto,” an exquisite group exhibition curated by Natacha Carron, brings together these heirs of Lucio Fontana, who worked against the grain of American Abstract Expressionism and European Art Informel to devise a radical new form of painting.
The show’s title, “Pittura Oggetto,” borrows the expression coined by Italian philosopher Gillo Dorfles to define works by these artists as “paintings as objects.” Such painting/objects were often monochromatic and characterized by repetitions and the manipulation of surface. Bonalumi’s canvases with protruding forms constitute a singular language of paintings-as-abstract reliefs. Similarly, Castellani’s canvases—stretched over nails—experiment with positive and negative space, and light and shadow, while Dadamaino’s black-and-white “volumi,” paintings with gaping holes cut through them, grapple with volume through absence and voids. Through repetition, Simeti conceived of art as a means to structure space and one’s experience of it, a concept also advanced by Scheggi, who placed his works in dialogue with architecture.
Together, these artists renounced personal expression, ornamental gesture, and superfluous narrative in order to achieve formal clarity. They demanded a new degree zero, a reduction to art’s perceived concrete and structural realities. In so doing, they also moved art beyond “painting as object” into a transformative process created by the artist, but completed by the viewer.
“Pittura Oggetto” is on view at Almine Rech Gallery, London, June 3–July 26, 2014.