In the mid-1960s, the art world was saturated with various painterly tendencies that differed from one environment to another. While the French artists started developing Nouveau realism or New Realism, a sort of a mix of Pop art and conceptual yearnings, the Italians had a more raw approach expressed through Arte Povera. Both styles or, more precisely, movements were heterogeneous and in some cases merged with other phenomena such as Op art, and Fluxus. Nevertheless, the common denominator for the artists active during that time was the need to explore the concepts of time and space by penetrating the canvas and searching for different solutions.
To revisit the domains of painterly production of that period, Cardi Gallery decided to organize an online exhibition called Escape from the Frame that includes a selection of exceptional works made by Arman, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Ha Chong-Hyun, Lucio Fontana, Jannis Kounellis, Günther Uecker and Gilberto Zorio between 1964 and 2019.
The starting point of this current virtual exhibition was based on the Second Spatial Manifesto written by the renowned Italian artist Lucio Fontana, founder of the Spatialism art movement that was focused on the explorations of color, sound, space, and movement. In the manifesto, the artist described the aim of painting, stating that it means "to escape its frame."
To articulate Fontana’s perception in regards to the works of other artists, this exhibition brings works that were made to expand the confines of the painterly surface whether it was a paper, canvas, or cardboard. Namely, these surfaces were ripped, slashed, and nailed by the artists, and some of them were even penetrated by objects, pierced with nails or paint pushed through from the back of the canvas.
The final result was a simplistic either multilayered or monochrome work evoking contemplation and formal harmony.
Take for instance the works made by Lucio Fontana and Enrico Castellani, centered on the illusionary inner-space emitting tranquility. Fontana gained recognition for his slashing technique used while the paint was still wet, and his canvases evoked the infinite space that spreads beyond the surface of the canvas. On the other hand, Castellani, who is considered to be the father of Minimalism, was known for the rigorous formal investigations and modularity also triggered by the light.
Similarly, Bonalumi explored how the light reflects on the surface of the painting by using monochrome canvas as a skin-like material, while Uecker inserted steel nails into a linen-lined wooden board painted with white color to produce an additional psychological dimension that exists outside the frame.
It is clear that this exhibition shows not only the innovation in technical but rather in the conceptual sense. The works produced during this era, but also the ones made later, reflect the zeitgeist of the time - in the mid and late 1960s that was a space race, as well as the gradual development of computer technology, and other scientific contributions, while in the current moment they are to be observed as vehicles for contemplation in the solitude of our homes.
The show is online on the gallery website.
Featured image: Enrico Castellani - Superficie bianca, 1970. Acrylic on shaped canvas73.2 x 92 cm28 7/8 x 36 1/4 in. All images courtesy Cardi Gallery.