- Enrico Castellani
- Superficie Rigata
- shaped canvas
Primo Piano Galleria d'Arte, Rome
Private Collection, Verona
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the early 1980s
Rome, Primo Piano Galleria d’Arte, Azimuth, November – December 1974, p. 5, illustrated
Ravenna, Loggetta Lombardesca, Enrico Castellani, June – September 1984, p. 153, (text)
Achille Bonito Oliva and Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Enrico Castellani, Parma 1976, p. 64, no. 29, illustrated
Lea Vergine, L'arte in trincea, Milan 1999, p. 92, illustrated
Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, Enrico Castellani, Catalogo ragionato, Opere 1955-2005, Vol. II, Milan 2012, p. 329, no. 77, illustrated
Enrico Castellani, 'Continuitá e nuovo', Azimuth, Milan, No. 2, 1960, n.p.
Untitled (Superficie Rigata) is an exquisite paradigm of minimal aesthetics. Executed in 1961, it belongs to Enrico Castellani's acclaimed series of shaped canvases also known as his Superficie. Extremely rare within this celebrated body of work, it is one of only seven striped works, of which only two (including the present work) have horizontal stripes; the other one is slightly smaller than the present work and is housed in the Collection Prada, Milan.
A horizontal pattern of dark blue and white lines define the surface of Untitled (Superficie Rigata). The overall effect is one of inexorable rhythmic vibration that verges on the vertiginous, as though the sharply depicted lines of blue and white are struggling to escape the confines of the compositional edge. In its illusory effects of movement and two toned colour palette, Untitled (Superficie Rigata) bears reference to the hypnotic works of the pioneer of Op art Bridget Riley. The concave shaped lower half of the canvas accentuates the impression of movement as the repeated lines appear to regress into infinity. In this manner, the correspondence of the canvas and the rows of thin regular lines implies an artwork that, although limited by its own physicality, has the potential for the limitless, and thus harbours the possibility of endless extension. Untitled (Superficie Rigata) is also remarkable for its distinctive format: shaped canvases are a rarity within Castellani's oeuvre. Projecting out from the wall with an almost sculptural force, the protruding sides of the present work further intensify the effect of strobing movement. The two-toned chromatic pairing within Superficie Rigata enables the unique of geometric form to be displayed to magnificent effect, whilst reinforcing the powerful dynamism of the composition. Chiming with Donald Judd’s mature work some years later, Castellani invites the viewer not only to scrutinise the space of the work of art itself, but also the ambient space of its surrounding environment.
In liberating the work from superfluous modes of representation Castellani’s self-referential and autonomous canvases associate themselves with philosophical dialogues on space and time. Castellani notes: “only the possession of an elementary entity, a line, an indefinitely repeatable rhythm or monochrome surface is necessary to give the works the concreteness of the infinite and subject them to the influence of time, the only conceivable dimension, yardstick and justification of our spiritual need” (Enrico Castellani, 'Continuitá e nuovo', Azimuth, Milan, No. 2, 1960, n.p.). In this sense, the examination of the fundamentals of aesthetics becomes an exploration of unadulterated concepts which are manifested, not in image, but in the existence of the work as an objective entity – it is “reduced to the semanticity of its own language” (Enrico Castellani cited in: Germano Clement, Enrico Castellani 1958-1970, Milan 2001, p. 43). These conceptual and aesthetic convictions aligned Castellani with the influential ZERO movement’s collective ambitions of “freeing art from every form of narrative or subjective pictorial expression in order to achieve a purification” (Bruno Corà, ‘Enrico Castellani: Art with the Semantic Value of Language’, in: Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, Enrico Castellani, Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. I, Milan 2012, p. 13).
Untitled (Superficie Rigata) consummately embodies this tension between immateriality, space, and art as object that would come to set the tone for Arte Povera from the mid-1960s and set the pace for Minimalism in America during the 1970s.