“My work has always been defined by tactile interpretation, which may be simply exercised with the eye.”
Agostino Bonalumi was born on 10 July 1935 in Vimercate, Milan. He studied technical and mechanical drawing. A self-taught painter, he began exhibiting his work at a very young age.
He met Enrico Baj in Milan in 1958, and Baj introduced him to Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. The three young artists formed an association that lead them to exhibit together, first at the Pater Gallery in Milan, and then in other exhibitions in Rome, Milan and Lausanne.
While his individual career was being consolidated with exhibitions in Europe and the United States, in 1961 at the Kasper Gallery in Lausanne, he was among the founders of the New European School group. Arturo Schwarz bought his works and in 1965 presented a solo exhibition of Bonalumi’s paintings at his gallery in Milan, with a catalogue presentation by Gillo Dorfles, who coined the expression “object painting” for the artist’s research.
The years between 1965 and 1979 were the years of the artist’s maturity: in 1966 he began a long period of collaboration with Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, which was to represent him exclusively, publishing an extensive monograph edited by Gillo Dorfles for Edizioni del Naviglio in 1973. These were the years in which the decisive question of overcoming the subjectivity and self-referentiality of informal art was consolidated for Bonalumi, with the adoption of a new centrality of operative methodology as the foundation of the artistic operation, in search of the “form” that would be capable of translating a new dimension of space, understood as a conscious place of human action.
In 1966, he was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale with a group of works, and in 1970 with a solo exhibition. This was followed by a period of study and work in the Mediterranean African countries and in the United States, where he presented a solo exhibition at the Bonino Gallery in New York. In 1967, he was invited to the São Paulo Biennial and in, 1968, to the Youth Biennial in Paris. It was during these years that the first environmental projects and the production of critical and poetic writings were born, later to be published in 1986.
In 1980, a major exhibition illustrating the entire span of his career was set up at Palazzo Te in Mantua.
In the 1990s, Bonalumi continued to experiment with materials: he began casting in bronze, using steel rods, which enabled him to create almost gestural extroversions. In 2002, the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome held a solo exhibition of Agostino Bonalumi’s works to celebrate the awarding of the 2001 President of the Republic’s Lifetime Achievement Prize to the artist.
He created environmental-painting works such as Blu abitabile (1967) for the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine in Foligno; Grande Nero (1968), for a personal exhibition at the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund; Dal giallo al bianco e dal bianco al giallo (1979), for the exhibition Pittura Ambiente at Palazzo Reale in Milan, where the environment, considered to be a human asset, is analysed as a primary asset, i.e. psychological, as in Ambiente Bianco (1979); Spazio trattenuto e spazio invaso (2002) for the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice.
Bonalumi worked on stage design, creating the sets and costumes for the ballet Partita, with music by Goffredo Petrassi and choreography by Susanna Egri, for the Roman Theatre in Verona in 1970. Additionally, he created the sets and costumes for Rot, with music by Domenico Guaccero and choreography by Amedeo Amodio, for the Rome Opera House in 1972.
Brussels, Moscow, New York and Singapore are some of the world capitals that hosted his solo exhibitions towards the end of his career. In the summer of 2013, he enthusiastically collaborated on a major exhibition of his work in London, but unfortunately did not get to see its opening.
Agostino Bonalumi died in Monza on the 18th of September 2013.
His works are kept at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Turin and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, the Mart in Rovereto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among others.
The Mazzoleni gallery represents the Agostino Bonalumi Estate.
Bonalumi. Sculture, catalogue of the exhibition curated by Francesca Pola, Mazzoleni Torino, 2014
Bonalumi 1958. 2013, catalogue of the exhibition curated by Marco Meneguzzo, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2018