My surfaces in canvas or plastic laminate or other material…are a reflection of that total inner space, devoid of contradictions, that we tend towards, so they last the time of an act of communion.
Enrico Castellani was born on the 4 August 1930 in Castelmassa, in the province of Rovigo.
In 1952, having successfully completed his schooling in Novara and Milan, he moved to Brussels and attended painting and sculpture courses at the Académie des Beaux Arts. In 1956, he graduated in architecture from the École Nationale Superieure de la Cambre.
After completing his studies, he returned to Milan, where he had the opportunity to work in Franco Buzzi’s architectural studio, collaborating with Buzzi until 1963. During those same years, he exhibited for the first time at the Pater Gallery and Prisma in Milan. It was then that he met Piero Manzoni, to whom he formed a deep friendship, as well as Agostino Bonalumi and Lucio Fontana.
It was in 1959 when he produced his first relief work. In the same year, along with Manzoni, he took part in the activities of the group of artists known as “Zero” or “Nul” and founded the Azimut Gallery at no. 12 Via Clerici in Milan. The opening of the gallery was accompanied by Castellani and Manzoni’s creation of the magazine Azimuth, with the publication of two editions, the first in December, featuring contributions and pictures of works by artists selected by the founders, and the second in January 1960, coinciding with the exhibition The new artistic conception, which displayed works by Breier, Castellani, Holweck, Klein, Mack, Manzoni and Mavignier, with a critical text by Castellani entitled Continuità E Nuovo.
Between 1960 and 1962, Castellani exhibited his works at the Galleria Azimut while, with Manzoni, he exhibited at the Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome and the Galerie Aujord’hui in Brussels.
From 1963 onwards, Castellani held several solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad, including one at the Galleria dell’Ariete in Milan, participation in the 1964 Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim International Award in New York, and, in 1965, the exhibition of one of his White Surface pieces at the MoMa in New York, as part of the international exhibition The Responsive Eye.
In 1966 he received the Gollin Prize following an exhibition dedicated to him at the Venice Biennale.
He lived and worked for a period in the United States, where he created some works that were later exhibited in a solo show at the Betty Parson Gallery in New York.
In 1967, he created the White Environment at the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine in Foligno. The visitor is immersed in a 360-degree painting enveloped by four walls covered with monochromes. Il muro del tempo was presented at the Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome in 1968, followed by Spartito in 1969 and Obelisco in 1970, and the exhibition Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana was held at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.
Following a period of time spent in Switzerland, Castellani returned to Italy in 1973 and settled in Celleno, a small town in the province of Viterbo.
Here he continued to create his works and exhibit in the most important national and international galleries and museums. In 1981 he exhibited in Identité Italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 1983, Arte Programmata e kinetica 1953-1963 at Palazzo Reale in Milan and in 1994 The Italian metamorphosis at the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2001, he participated in the very important anthological exhibition curated by Germano Celant and held at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, as well as the exhibition curated by Bruno Corà at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
His most recent exhibitions include a show at the Haunch of Venison gallery in New York in 2009 and 2011. In 2011, his most recent works were presented again in New York, and again in the spaces of Haunch of Venison, which exhibited the famous White Environment for the first time in the United States. The following year, with Günter Uecker, he exhibited at Ca’ Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, in Venice, an exhibition which was to be reproposed in 2013 at the MAM Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne. Also in 2013, the genesis of Castellani’s work is extensively documented in Azimut/h. Continuità e nuovo, exhibited at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, in Venice, followed by the big exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s, curated by Velerie Hillings at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His work was also presented in the exhibition Local History: Enrico Castellani, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, at the Dominique Lévy Gallery, both in New York and London.
Enrico Castellani lived and worked in Celleno, until he died on the 1st of December 2017.
Germano Celant, Enrico Castellani, Fondazione Prada Milano, 2001
Enrico Castellani. Catalogue raisonné, edited by Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, Skira 2012
The rhythmic tangibility of infinity. Enrico Castellani. Exhibition catalogue edited by Francesco Poli, Galleria Mazzoleni, Turin 2013