Enrico Castellani *
(born in Castelmassa, Rovigo in 1930)
Superficie bianca, 1986, signed, titled and dated Enrico Castellani 1986, on the stretcher, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 100 cm, on stretcher (AR)
Archivio Fondazione Enrico Castellani, Milan, archive no. 86–001, signed by the artist
Totah Gallery, London/New York
Galleria Valeria Belvedere, Milan
European Private Collection
New York, Albert Totah Gallery, Enrico Castellani, May – June 1987
London, Edward Totah Gallery, December 1987, exh. cat no. 5
Renata Wirz, Federico Sardella (ed.), Enrico Castellani. Catalogo ragionato. 1955–2005, Skira, Milan 2012, vol. II, p. 480, no. 596 with ill.
Enrico Castellani is universally known as one of the Italy’s most important living artists, a protagonist of one of the happiest and fervent artistic seasons of the post-war period.
After studying architecture at Belgian Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and École supérieure des Arts de la Ville, he soon began challenging the confines of painting, sculpture and architecture in search of something new that could go beyond the existing categories of art.
In 1959 Castellani displayed his Superfici nere for the first time. From then on, he worked with his monochrome canvases, stretching them over patterns of protruding nails before painting.
Each time, these relief-like surfaces create different light and shade effects through alternating depressions and raised areas in a perfect equilibrium of contrasting forces.
The artist’s intention to abstain from using the conventional means of traditional painting and his attempt to “add“ as little as possible to the canvas led critics and artists like Donald Judd to designate Castellani as the pioneer of Minimalism.
By limiting his compositional variations and sticking to strict monochromy, Castellani creates works that aspire to the absolutely impersonal and do not demand to be read, interpreted or contemplated, but are simply what is visible to the eye: “specific objects“, to use the Donald Judd’s words.
This is why Castellani is among those artists whose names will remain in art history as innovators and leading figures in the establishment of new definitions of painting, the introduction of movement and light, the use of space as subject and material as well as the investigation of the relationship between nature, technology and humankind.
This work from 1997 condenses, and perfectly amalgamates, all the tenets of Castellani’s poetics: the essential nature of forms, an emphasis on the objectual, physical dimension of the artwork, and its complete impersonality.
A snow-white canvas and a virtually untouched surface: there is only a row of nails running along the whole perimeter of the canvas, thus creating a kind of “frame“ within the canvas itself and achieving an effect of extreme elegance and minimalist refinement.
It is a summa, as it were, of Castellani’s work, which here reaches an exceptional degree of geometry and order: it testifies to the artist’s adherence to a pure form of Minimalism that (far from his more markedly “optical“ effects often achieved by alternating full and empty spaces) brings him close to the artistic research pursued by, among others, LeWitt, Judd and Andre.
For all this, the emotional detachment much sought-after by Minimalists is in this case counterbalanced by something that attracts the viewer, holds his attention and invites him to observe and enter the space that seems to be enclosed in a frame of nails. The viewer is inevitably led to imagine something beyond that frame and that canvas, which – although neither “violated“ by a blade (as in Fontana’s work) nor completely omitted (as did many of his Minimalist fellow artists) – hides within itself the illusion, the metaphor of an infinite space that Castellani frames with his beloved nails.
This is reminiscent of the effect that James Turrell – who led the reprogramming of Minimalism in the late 1980s – achieved with the sky in his Skyspace I, 1974: a square room with a large square aperture in the ceiling, in which the sky is framed by a narrow margin of white ceiling. A symbolic architecture in which the cycles of the cosmos and the transformative experience is “eternally“ displayed.
An empty canvas, apparently really empty, that says nothing and is without significance – almost dull, in fact – in reality, is crammed with thousands of undertone tensions and full of expectancy. Slightly apprehensive lest it should be outraged.
realized price**EUR 383,640USD 417,000
estimateEUR 250,000 to 350,000USD 271,500 to 380,500
Contemporary Art - Part I
Date: 01.06.2016, 18:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum Vienna
Exhibition: 21.05. - 01.06.2016
**Purchase price incl. all charges, commissions and taxes
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