Nearly half of the entire oeuvre of the Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni consists of the “uncoloured” Achromes, a group of around 600 works. By applying plaster of Paris and, from 1958 on, kaolin, which is used in ceramics production, Manzoni created random structures on canvases, which he modulated with incisions and by applying materials such as fur, cotton wool, polystyrene, silk, and whitewashed bread rolls or by folding and assembling squares of canvas. Without any influence on the part of the artist, the process of drying, under various hygrostatic conditions, created waves, folds and tears, which came together to form a painting beyond symbolism and colour semantics. Manzoni wanted his Achromes to not only remove the limits of the artistic individual’s sphere of action – which he felt was restricted to setting down emblematic markers in the act of painting – he also wanted to present the painting as a container with unlimited, infinite possibilities. Together with Enrico Castellani, Manzoni founded the Galleria Azimut and the magazine Azimuth in Milan in December 1959. In 1960, in the second issue, he published his programmatic text “Libera dimensione”, which he used to launch an anti-traditional art movement in Italy. In this text, he postulated: “There is no question of forming, articulating. […] Expression, imagination, abstraction, are they not in themselves empty inventions? There is nothing to explain: just be, and live.”1
1 Piero Manzoni, “Free Dimension” , in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford, 2003, p. 724.
In the exhibition:
Piero Manzoni Achrome, 1958 Kaolin on canvas 51,5 × 41 cm Museum Ulm
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