Piero Manzoni, Soncino Cremona 1933 - 1963 Milan
Though brief, Piero Manzoni’s career stands at the forefront of the Italian postwar avant garde. Born in Soncino, Manzoni was raised in Milan and spent summer holidays in Albisola, where he first encountered the pioneering spatialist artist Lucio Fontana, who kept a studio there. In 1957, the precocious young Manzoni painted his first Achromes, the completely white canvases he draped with fabric, covered in gesso, and soaked in kaolin and then left to dry, allowing for irregular patterns of folds, wrinkles, bubbles, and drips to playfully distort the geometric form and pure colour of the composition. Manzoni exhibited these works in 1958 alongside Fontana and Enrico Baj, and began to collaborate with Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, with whom he edited the first issue of the avant-garde journal Azimuth and founded the Azimut gallery in 1959. Manzoni’s work became increasingly conceptual, focussed on questioning the very nature of the art object. His most shocking gesture came in 1961 with his ninety cans of Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit), which he priced by their weight in gold. Other manifestations included pneumatic sculptures filled with artist’s breath, eggs marked with the artist’s thumbprint that the public were encouraged to devour, and so-called “Living Sculptures”—human beings signed by Manzoni.
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