Agostino Bonalumi (Vimercate, 1935 – Desio, 2013) was one of the major figures in Italian art after World War II. His debut as a painter came about in the Milanese context of the 1950s; he frequented Enrico Baj’s studio and, together with Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani (with whom he founded the magazine Azimuth), he followed a path within painting which sought to redefine its language through a process of elimination of representation, with its ideal outcome in monochrome. The canvas became an open field of possibilities. Closeness to reality no longer passed through figuration but took on a body based on the study of the phenomena of perception.
A characteristic of Bonalumi’s work was the creation of extroflected canvases, with the insertion of wood and metal supports that determined their forms. In this way the artist created vibrant surface, whose forms changed in relation to the incidence of light and perspective. The two-dimensional surfaces were flexed and acquired a third dimension; the emphasis was placed on the optical-perceptual illusion, giving the work a shimmering quality. The interplay of light and shade was no longer achieved by color variations but modulations of the structure itself. Such works were called “object-paintings,” using the definition of the critic Gillo Dorfles, for their ability to hold together the languages of painting and sculpture, stimulating a tactile experience: the starting point was always the canvas, but it extended to the surrounding space, establishing a direct relationship with the setting and the viewer.
The next step was to go beyond the dimension of the picture and the approach to environmental painting, with works in which the painting was adapted to the space. Emblematic in this respect was the work done by Bonalumi for the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine in Foligno in 1967, at which he presented Blue abitabile (“Inhabitable Blue”), an installation created with a series of panels with extroflected structures that invaded the space of the viewers, inviting them to “inhabit” the work.
Bonalumi’s work in the Per_forming a collection project dates from 1974, and is the same as the one the Galleria Il Centro presented in Naples at an exhibition devoted to Azimuth, with works by Bonalumi, Castellani and Manzoni. The painting is part of a body of works produced in the 1970s, in which white effaces all reference to the image in order to free the underlying form. The rational subdivision of the surface is tensioned by the interplay of light generated by the regularity of the forms in relief, in an encounter between ideal form and sensory suggestion, conceptual contribution and aesthetic experimentation.