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November 10December 19, 2020

Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni

Press release

The exhibition project Lucio FontanaEnrico BajPiero Manzoni, curated by Gaspare Luigi Marcone, gathers three undisputed masters of Post-War Italian art. The presentation is a homage to 1958, an important year in which the differing research of all three artists was displayed and published together.In 1958, two exhibitions were presented in Italy under the title Fontana Baj Manzoni, both accompanied by a critical text by Luciano Anceschi. The first was held at the Galleria Bergamo in the city of Bergamo from the 4th to the 17th of January, the second at the Galleria del Circolo di Cultura in Bologna from the 23rd of March to the 8th of April that year.

Enrico Baj, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Roberto Crippa, Eduard Mesens, Milano, c. 1962
Enrico Baj, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Roberto Crippa, Eduard Mesens, Milano, c. 1962

Almost certainly the Bologna exhibition was the first time in
which Manzoni presented his new ‘white works’, subsequently entitled Achromes.

Piero Manzoni

Achrome, 1958-1959

Creased canvas and kaolin
18 x 24 cm
7 1/8 x 9 1/2 in

Lucio Fontana

Concetto spaziale. Attesa, 1964-65

Waterpaint on canvas
47 x 38 cm
18 1/2 x 15 in

Along with its importance to Manzoni’s career, 1958 was also a very significant year for Fontana’s research. Following the invention of the “holes” in 1949, the founder of Spatialism began to work on his first Concetto spaziale, Attese featuring “cuts” in the canvas. Like Fontana and Manzoni, Baj also pursued an approach ‘beyond painting’, using fabric, buttons and decorative objects to create his work.

Enrico Baj

Il super general, 1960

Oil, collage, passamanterie, decorations, objects on fabric
130 x 97 cm
51 1/8 x 38 1/4 in
Enrico Baj, il Gesto, 1958. Courtesy Archivio Enrico Baj, Vergiate
Enrico Baj, il Gesto, 1958. Courtesy Archivio Enrico Baj, Vergiate

The selection of works examines this key moment in art history with pieces from 1958 as well from before and after this date in order to shed light on the paths followed by the artists. Focussing on their use of radical new methods and experimentation with materials that eventually defined their ‘signature’ work, the show includes art movements such as Spatialism and Nuclear Art.

Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin
Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin

In the first room we see three iconic works: a white “cut” by Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale. Attesa, 1964-65; an Achrome in creased canvas by Manzoni, 1958 and one of the firsts mature example of the “Generali” Baj’s series, Il Super Generale, 1960, in which the artist  juxtaposes canvas, cloth, passamanterie, collage and medals. All three artists will dedicate to those type of works many years of their artistic research, decline them in different forms, chromatisms and heterogeneous solutions.

Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin
Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin

The main room synthetically displays the experiences before and after the 1958. On the left wall (from the entrance) we can see Concetto spaziale (Barocco), 1956, by Fontana; Peinture nucléaire (Dedicato ad André Kuhn), 1952, by Baj; Untitled, 1957, a vivid Nuclear work by a young Manzoni. The three works share solutions vaguely “monstrous”, typical of their artistic researches of those years. Fontana’s Baroque production, as well as the series of Buchi, relies on  the use of various extra pictorial materials and an extensive artistic research towards a new conception of the space and a diffuse use of the light. The practice of using extra pictorial material are also to be later adopted by Bay and Manzoni (for instance fabrics and trimmings used by Bay or Manzoni’s kaolin).

Lucio Fontana

Concetto spaziale (Barocco), 1956

Oil, mixed media and glitter on canvas
70 x 100 cm
27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in

Piero Manzoni

Untitled, 1957

Oil on canvas
50 x 65 cm
19 3/4 x 25 5/8 in

Enrico Baj

Peinture nucléaire (Dedicato ad André Kuhn), 1952

Oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm
31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in

The striking oil by Baj from 1952 is one of the first examples of “nuclear painting”, made right after the birth of the Movimento Arte Nucleare, founded by Enrico Baj and Sergio Dangelo between Milan and Brussels (1951-52). The atomic physics is the foundation of the nuclear research, or as Baj used to say of “the artists belonging to the nuclear period”, it opened up to unprecedented and limitless horizons.

Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin
Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin

On the opposite wall some later works showing the artist’s aim to go “beyond painting”. Two works by Baj: a small portrait dated 1955 and Testa montagna from 1958, where the polymetric use of fabrics and pigments emerges as a major example from his homonym series; an Achrome by Manzoni, ca. 1960, in stitched canvas and glass fragments and a rare “ink” work by Fontana, Concetto spaziale [Forma], 1958, realised in aniline, ink, and collage on canvas with holes.

Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin
Lucio Fontana | Enrico Baj | Piero Manzoni, exhibition view 2020, Mazzoleni Turin

Piero Manzoni

Achrome, ca. 1960

Canvas sewn in squares and glass pieces
70 x 50 cm
27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in

Enrico Baj

Portrait, 1955

Mixed media on damask canvas
30 x 24 cm
11 3/4 x 9 1/2 in

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