Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001
Formally trained as an architect, Castellani manipulates the physical surface of his canvases to alter perceptions of space. In Superficie Bianca each punctiform modulation exists as a three dimensional protrusion, the ebb and flow of the canvas reveals a seamless variation of light. The subtly adapting tones affirm Castellani’s work as an object existing in and communicating with its ambient environment, with inexhaustible possibilities of tension and drama under changing conditions of darkness or illumination. Beneath the landscape of its subtly undulating relief is a unique geometric stretcher. Using a nail gun, Castellani followed the diagonal lines of this wooden structure and carefully positioned nails to push the canvas out from behind. Displaying a sequential pattern of extroflexions and introflexions, Superficie Bianca reveals Castellani’s vigilant, mathematical arrangement. The result is a dynamic series of waves that appear to resonate even beyond the boundaries of the canvas; aiming to invoke an illusionary effect that escapes time’s grip and comes closer to its pauses, hovering in the void between positive and negative, day and night, life and death, and eventually approaching a higher realm of the divine infinite. Castellani elaborated his primary artistic vision in the Azimuth journal in 1960: “The possession of an elementary entity—a line, an indefinitely repeatable rhythm, and a monochrome surface—is necessary to give the works themselves the concreteness of infinity that may endure the conjugation of time, the only conceivable dimension…of our spiritual need” (Enrico Castellani, ‘Continuità e nuovo’, Azimuth, No. 2, January 1960).
In Superficie Bianca, the artist successfully asserts the individual materiality of the canvas while simultaneously liberating it from its traditional supporting role. Freed from the constraints of representation the work encourages the viewer to look beyond the picture plane and posit their own ideals and theories onto a 'blank' canvas. Frequently employed for its properties as a ‘non-colour’ by artists who subscribed to the ZERO mentality, white truly exemplified the nihilistic reduction of the artwork. As stated by Castellani: “a white, empty surface, it is the most abstract thing one can possibly imagine…the surface was becoming whiter and whiter, and in short, the limit would have been an untouched surface” (Enrico Castellani cited in: Adachiara Zevi, Castellani, Ravenna 1984, p. 77).
Indisputably influential, Castellani’s work reverberated with the post war avant-garde groups Arte Nucleare, Gruppo N, Gruppo T, Motus, GRAV and Nul and perhaps most poignantly with the seminal works of Donald Judd who famously canonised Castellani as ‘the Father of Minimalism’.
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