Private Collection, Milan.
F. Pola, ed., Gianni Colombo: The Body and the Space 1959–1980, exh. cat. Robilant+Voena, London, 2015, pp. 142, 220, fig. 131, illustrated.
“A further example of the concept of ‘elastic space’ is the construction of real object-paintings in which the conceptual and perceptive non-determination of form, structure and image is achieved by other means. The subject of the work is the condition of space, at once projective and appropriated, the transformation of a sign, which displays the theoretical features of geometrical design at first, into something physical. Once more, the focus is on the arbitrary modifiability of a structure, which can be constructed in a number of ways, as a result of the viewer’s participation, thanks to the elasticity of the metal threads that are used as signs.”—Flaminio Gualdoni, in Gianni Colombo, exh. cat. Studio Gariboldi, Milan, 2010
Gianni Colombo produced his first artworks—an oeuvre which comprises painting, sculpture and ceramics—in 1955. He studied at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, attending courses in painting taught by Achille Funi and Pompeo Borra. He shared his first studio in the via Montegrappa with Davide Boriani and Gabriele Devecchi, and eventually moved to a studio next to that belonging to his brother, the famous designer Joe Colombo. He experimented with different materials and languages, and in 1959 founded Gruppo T with Giovanni Anceschi, Davide Boriani and Gabriele Devecchi, becoming an internationally acclaimed protagonist of Kinetic and Programmed Art.
Colombo was both a technician of manipulable, kinetic objects, and a Dadaist architect. His desire to go beyond a traditional conception of the work of art, of transforming viewers into technicians, led the artist to experiment with new structures of perception by means of light effects and unusual balances. He aimed to modify the viewer’s sensations, surprising them with the creation of new synaesthetic fields of interaction between different sensory organs. Colombo sought to disrupt the perceptive passivity of the places in which art is viewed, from galleries and museums to houses and palaces, and thus expose the inertia that characterised their use.
Colombo experimented with his elastic spaces in several forms: from the early nets of cubes consisting of elastic threads set in motion by engines or by means of UV light, to the installation of an “environmental” elastic space at the Attico gallery in Rome (1967–68), an idea which would inspire several later variations. At the end of the 1970s, Colombo developed a series of elastic spaces built using lightweight metal structures in the shape of cubes which he suspended from the ceiling using simple nylon threads that he set in motion by means of engines. The importance of the viewer’s interactive role became more prominent once again in another series of elastic spaces the artist developed from 1974 onwards, to which the present work, dated 1975, belongs. In such pieces, Colombo used the traditional surface of a painting, transforming it into a panel that the subject can influence by moving the elastic threads with their hands. The drawings that can thus be obtained absorb the viewer in a relationship that has the seeming lightness of a game—“game” and “lightness” being two key words central to Colombo’s poetics.
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