Enrico Castellani

© Lothar Wolleh Estate, Berlin / Foto: Lothar Wolleh

In 1959, using a regular, geometric arrangement of hazelnuts across which he stretched a monochrome canvas, Enrico Castellani established the fundamental elements of his series Superficie (Surface), thereby breaking with his early tachistic work. The new form of painting was not to come about through paint and brush but rather through the modulation of light caused by elevations and depressions in the canvas, creating a geometric chiaroscuro. Castellani eventually replaced the nuts with nails standing perpendicular to the canvas. Using these structures, the tensioned surfaces and the modulations of light, he experimented with a variety of materials, textures, colours and spatial arrangements. In 1959, Castellani and Piero Manzoni founded the Galleria Azimut in Milan and launched the magazine Azimuth (written as AZIMUT|H) as a means to present artists and their work and showcase practitioners operating within the dialectic of continuity and innovation and committed to a new concept of art. The gallery only ran for a year but during this short period it put on thirteen exhibitions, including Castellani’s first solo show, the group exhibition La nuova concezione artistica and a show by the Düsseldorf-based ZERO artist Heinz Mack. Superficie Bianca from the year 1970 reflects Castellani’s concept of the “concreteness of the infinite”, a theme he worked on throughout his artistic career. The exponential expansion of the distances between two vertical rows of nine and seven nails, which are alternately covered with canvas and driven through the canvas, creates the impression of two competing visual fields within the same picture. A smooth triangle appears to slide into the rhythmic plane of nails and draw it into an infinite, imaginary realm. 

Ulrike Pennewitz


In the exhibition:

Enrico Castellani
Superficie Bianca, 1970
Oil on profiled canvas
151 × 177 × 16 cm
Private collection + Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery