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Enrico Castellani was born in Rovigo in 1930, and he studied art, sculpture and architecture in Belgium until 1956, when he graduated from the École Nationale Superiéure. The following year he returned to Italy, settling in Milan, where he became an active member of the new art scene. In particular he worked together with his friend Piero Manzoni, with whom he formed an artistic collaboration. The contrast between their personalities brought curiosity and interest from the art commentators of that time, as Manzoni was so volcanic, dishevelled and playful, whereas Castellani was serious, distinct and reflective. Inspired by action painting, especially by Mark Tobey, and recognizing this kind of art as a way to reach successful completion, he started a new beginning, which suggested resetting the previous artistic experiences, and establishing it on a new friendly association with social progress. This reset was accomplished by Manzoni, Castellani and Bonalumi with the use of monochrome canvases (often totally white) everted with various techniques to create effects of lights and shadows with the changing angle of the light source. It was so original, that it was considered of fundamental importance in the history of abstract art of the twentieth century, not only with regard to the Italian scene, but especially to the international one. The echo of their work influenced and inspired Donald Judd, who called Castellani the father of minimalism in an article in 1966. If Piero Manzoni chose as his favorite materials kaolin and cotton for its famous “Achromes,” Castellani and Bonalumi embarked on a rigorous course of study and analysis of the possibilities provided from the eversion of the canvas through the use of nails, ribs, shapes of wood and metal inserted behind the canvas. In 1959, Castellani made his first relief surface, which became a constant in his style. This was called by the critics “different repetition”, where this carefully chosen repetition of full and empty on the rhythmic protrusions of the canvas is always a new path, even if it is coherent and intense.
He joined the Venice Biennale in 1964, 1966 (with a solo show), in 1984 and 2003. In 1965, he participated in the collective “The Responsive Eye” at MoMA in New York and at the Eighth Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1970, he took part in the collective “Vitality of the negative in Italian Art”, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, at the Exhibition Palace in Rome. In 1981, he participated in “Italian identity. Art in Italy after 1959”, curated by Germano Celant, at Centre Pompidou in Paris; in 1983, at Palazzo Reale in Milan for the exhibition “Art and kinetic Program 1953-63”. In 1994 he was invited to the exhibition “The Italian Metamorphosis” at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He died in 2017.