Enrico Castellani, born in Rovigo in 1930, studied art, sculpture, and architecture in Belgium until 1956 when he graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure. He returned to Italy in 1957, settling in Milan, where he became a key figure in the emerging art scene. Collaborating with his friend Piero Manzoni, their contrasting personalities intrigued art commentators. Manzoni was exuberant and playful, while Castellani was serious and reflective.
Inspired by action painting, especially Mark Tobey, Castellani embarked on a new artistic journey, focused on monochrome canvases, often entirely white. They used various techniques to create effects of light and shadow depending on the angle of the light source. This innovative approach was significant in the history of abstract art, influencing even Donald Judd, who called Castellani the father of minimalism in 1966.
While Manzoni favored kaolin and cotton for his “Achromes,” Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi explored the eversion of canvas using nails, ribs, and wood or metal shapes inserted behind it. In 1959, Castellani created his first relief surface, a defining feature of his style. Critics referred to it as “different repetition,” where the carefully chosen interplay of full and empty spaces on the canvas created a unique, coherent, and intense visual experience.
Castellani participated in several prestigious exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale in 1964, 1966 (with a solo show), 1984, and 2003. He also showcased his work at MoMA in New York in 1965 and the Eighth Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1970, he contributed to the exhibition “Vitality of the Negative in Italian Art” in Rome, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva. In 1981, Castellani took part in “Italian Identity: Art in Italy after 1959” at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and in “Art and Kinetic Program 1953-63” at Palazzo Reale in Milan in 1983. In 1994, he was featured in “The Italian Metamorphosis” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Enrico Castellani passed away in 2017, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the world of abstract art.