Enrico Castellani, surfaces and foundations
LOOM gallery and Fondazione Enrico Castellani re-enact the 1999 solo exhibition at Galleria Civica di Trento
Castellani’s artwork is not something to be discovered; instead, it expands. If Heraclitus already testified that «the nature of things loves to hide», and if, to this day, cosmologists consider energy and matter obscure, it would be convenient to update languages according to nature. An ode to the light produced by the artist won’t suffice to see this straight. O light of art, so rare, clear up the subtle steps of the waves and particles that, through inflections and reliefs, douse the beauty of your surfaces!
It won’t be the well-known Superfici, volumes built by many shafts, currently keeping sculptures and “situations” of semiotic events on the sidelines, to dominate stages and parterres. Aren’t their wooden beams and tumulus- or valve-like membranes rising to tell us that Spartito rules each side – the fight and the partition, the below and the above – for better or worse? These are parts of ongoing relations.
According to specific iconological foundations Castellani shares the duality of internal surfaces and/or voids – the violin of his prestige. Such extro- and introflexed bodies, for it seems one could touch and make them resonate with one’s eyes, become tools of haptic observation; devoid of frames, they open up space and energy fields. Like steps on the moon, closed surfaces communicate with open foundations. Surfaces radiate brighter when enlivened by cavities and depths that sensitize them: such was young Enrico’s trump card. His art expands in each single dark-bodied surface, between sculptures, environments, events, and lesser-known refined digressions. Passers-by happen to dispute on the “different repetition” that, if the white Superfici were stripped of their frames, could only differentiate them poorly: but they create a language. Perhaps a quantization of the infinitesimally small? Although I’m no mathematical physicist, I wish I could understand it too. No – the oeuvre of Castellani is as quantistic as the image described by those experts that speak of Hartle-Hawking’s no-boundary universe proposal, that is, pertaining to the invisible or the infinite.
The Nobel Prize awarded to Giorgio Parisi for his discovery of the interplay between disorder and fluctuations in physical systems, from atomic to planetary scales – be it atoms, planets, bird flight patters – shines a light on this exhibition’s combination of Castellani’s sculptures and surfaces, structures which, to most, evoke streams of chaos. Today, chaos is translated by maths and induced by poetry. Trained as an artist, Castellani once received a text by poet Mario Luzi, which was originally published in his collection Su fondamenti invisibili (1971). «Castellani’s tabula could be the origin as well as the epilogue of creation», Luzi warned us, understanding the opposition.
Castellani, a theoretical and experimental artist, is complex in himself. Just like his machinae, gathered together by Loom Gallery, brought to tension through beams and tensors, displayed in pairs and at the centre!
«Art searches for the universal through a detailed examination of particulars, which often requires an artificially limited scenario in order to be fruitful». (Lee Smolin, 2014)
No quantum of supremacy
A philosopher who curated a major art exhibition in 2013 declared: «Painting has won». Won? For Castellani’s never-suprematist surfaces, it had been true since his experimental and theoretical debut in 1959, when he had his first shows, having been selected by two of Milan’s most cutting-edge galleries, Schwarz and Ariete. Now Bernard-Henri Lévy aims at a genetic autonomy of language – heading towards the automation of visual arts?
«Painting has won. It is autonomous.» As in Lacan’s psychoanalysis, by now, painting authorizes itself. Indifferent to its own narration, like Bataille said of Manet, painting becomes its “only object”, rejecting “any will that is external to painting”, as Malraux commented.
In 2013, Castellani exhibited the bi-angular Superficie argento – a winged plane with deflected edges, so to speak – upon Lévy’s invitation at Saint-Paul-de-Vence’s Fondation Maeght, a charismatic habitat for the history of modernist avant-gardes. Like Malraux did years before, Lévy gathered a large amount of antique and non-antique works, in a récit made of painting, philosophy and adventures of truth. How do the hundred works move in there?
«Having broken all moorings to the harbor of Being, these works are like Annunciations to a self-referential world that doesn’t refer to anything but itself, an absolute object, hard as stone and free of hidden implications, products of an obscure discourse that is no longer the one philosophers used to fathom.»
«… ascetic and voluptuous… a sensual platonism… that endows his undertakings with something hieratic, puritanical, that unites, whatever it is, the ancient willingness to break free from the image.»
Sculpting the pose of spacetime in a lagoon
Editor’s note: this writing introduces “Enrico Castellani – Le Superfici e i Fondamenti”, an exhibition presented by LOOM Gallery and Fondazione Enrico Castellani (Loom Gallery, Milano, from 28th Oct to 31st Dec 2021). The show includes two large white triangular canvases and two massive wooden sculptures made from square beams stabilized by steel stays and rigging attached to small mooring posts. This body of works was made for the artist’ solo show at Galleria Civica in Trento in 1999, and they have not been presented together since.
October 20, 2021