Agostino Bonalumi, Vimercate 1935 - 2013 Monza
Red (Rosso), 1968
Intermedia '69, Verl. Ed. Tangente, Heidelberg, 1969.
A. Fiz, F. Bonalumi, Bonalumi, Museo delle Arti di Catanzaro, Marca, Silvana Editoriale, 2014, p .84.
AAVV, Agostino Bonalumi, Institut Mathildenhohe, Darmstadt, coedizione galleria Niccoli, galleria Fumagalli, 2003, p. 146.
F. Pola, Italian Neo-Renaissance, Bonalumi, Scheggi, Robilant+Voena 2015, pp. 40–59, fig. 9.
F. Bonalumi, M. Meneguzzo, Agostino Bonalumi. Catalogue Raisonné, Milan 2015, vol. II, p. 421, fig. 390.
New York, Robilant+Voena, Italian Neo-Renaissance, Bonalumi, Scheggi, 5-28 May 2015.
Diffusing a new dynamism into post-war Italian art after abandoning his formal studies of technical and mechanical design, Agostino Bonalumi’s knowledge of construction inspired his artistic output, whereby he examined the differing effects on the eye by manipulating form and colour in conjunction. A mysterious presence lurks beneath the surface; a circular bulge distorts the picture plane, invoking the artist’s interest in modulation and optical illusion.
Elegant in its geometrical order, space is not only investigated in Rosso within the confines of the surface, but physically stretched outside of its own boundaries. In 1967, while working in New York to prepare for his celebrated first solo show in the United States at Galleria Bonino, the artist discovered the industrial material, ciré. Further developing his investigations into the idea of space, Bonalumi explored the effects of this unconventional, flexible and shiny material, harnessing its unique reflective and malleable qualities to manipulate the structural possibilities of the work. As Francesca Pola states, ‘ciré also attracted Bonalumi because of its compactness and chromatic timbre and the way in which the surface tensions distorted the geometry, as in the works executed with striped ciré, in some of which extroflections and introflections combine centric and linear dynamics’, (Francesca Pola, Agostino Bonami: All the Shapes of Space, 1958 – 1976, Milan, 2013, p. 120). Evoking a rhythmic vibrancy, material and colour are at once united, coursing with vital energy. Executed in 1968, Rosso is a pivotal example of the artist’s primary concern with perception, utilising structural manipulation, light effects and the evocation of space. No longer just a support for painterly application, the canvas is transformed, becoming a mouldable spectacle where all things are possible.
Influenced by Lucio Fontana’s creative legacy, Bonalumi was concerned with the idea of space and breaking through the flat surface into the three-dimensional. Unlike Fontana, however, Bonalumi appeared less interested in the space behind the canvas and more intent on architecturally penetrating the space in front of it. Demonstrated in his Pittura Oggetto, famously coined by art critic Gillo Dorfles in 1966, the artist was interested in the idea of extending the canvas to the space inhabited by the viewer. Bonalumi belonged to a generation of Italian artists, such as Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, who were artistically seduced, challenged and confronted by Fontana. This group shared a mutual interest in the exploration of space and pursued revolutionary research concerning surface and materials. The disparity between Bonalumi and his contemporaries became immediately clear, as rather than presenting objects in a rigid and geometrical order, his artistic output possessed a fantastical and imaginative quality, appearing aesthetically more organic and fluid in appearance. Presenting strong affinities to the aesthetic trends of the pioneers of Minimalism, like Frank Stella and Robert Mangold, Bonalumi deviated from traditional rectangular-shaped canvases, investigating analogous issues of reduction and construction, to elevate form as a dynamic element in activating new space. Evident in the present work, form is forged as an active experience, characteristic of the artist’s preoccupation with Bridget Riley-esque optics and geometry to objectify free space.
Presenting undulating linear elements, geometric patterning and mysterious involutions, while similarly exploring a wide variety of progressive materials, Bonalumi masterfully enlivened his canvases. Reinventing painting by blurring conventional boundaries of dimensionality, the artist investigates form, shadow, volume and mass. Bianco e Nero’s thought-provoking beauty challenges every assumption and preconception about the medium of painting. Deconstructing the visual language of the canvas and focusing on materiality, this seductive work demonstrates the endless energy stemming from Bonalumi’s creative and innovative methodology.
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