In planning my objects, I have never considered the problem of their placement.
These objects have their own spatial functionality and they can therefore be inserted in a pre-existing “space environment” which will thus be modified, newly defined, or even overturned in this definitions as positive or negative space.
However, since these objects are planned as a “space unit”, they can already be considered as “space environment”.
AGOSTINO BONALUMI, 1967 (quoted in Agostino Bonalumi. All the Shapes of the Space 1958-1976, exh. cat. London, Galleria Robilant + Voena, 2013, p. 104).
In the late 1960s, Agostino Bonalumi's 'Object-Paintings' escaped the bounds of the wall and, in some cases, became free-standing sculptures in their own rights. Rosso is a free-standing sculpture that stands almost two metres tall and two metres wide, a monumental iteration of Bonalumi's unique vision. This striking red sculpture is monochrome; it has the elegant curves of a Ferrari, a sense of dynamism that might almost derive from Futurist forms.
Rosso is made of fibreglass, yet recalls the paintings that Bonalumi had been making over previous years in which the surface would 'extroflect' - it would bulge out from the picture plane. In Rosso, both picture plane and wall have been entirely abandoned in order to create an object which echoes the forms of Bonalumi's earlier works yet which redefines the space around it in a new way. The contrast between its curves and corners, between sharp and flowing lines, sweeping undulations and points, all combine to make a work that is at once graceful and imposing. These forms also result in intriguing plays of light and colour, as the shaped form creates different shadows here and there.
Even in the late 1950s, Bonalumi's works had featured a three-dimensional quality. Some of his earlier pictures had appeared far more gestural than the more controlled, geometric constructions in monochrome that would lead to Rosso. In those works from the 1950s, he would encrust materials into the surface, such as clothing and tubular elements. This resulted in a gestural surface that recalled the Art Informel that was so prevalent at the time. There was a focus on the materiality of the surface that was echoed in the works of Bonalumi's friends and contemporaries, Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. Like them, Bonalumi began to focus with increasing rigour on the nature of picture-making itself, discarding the extraneous materials which he had formerly been pasting to the surface and replacing them with the 'extroflecting' bulges that marked many of his works over the following years. This was a process that was echoed in the works of Manzoni and Castellani alike: they each developed visual languages that veered away from the Informel and towards a sort of proto-Minimalist conceptual process.
Those concepts remain at the heart of Rosso: there is a sense of elegant geometry to the swirling forms of this large-scale sculpture. By using such a geometry, Bonalumi was returning to his roots as a student of technical drawing: he was able to design forms in advance, creating them according to design, rather than according to any hazard. It is for this reason that Rosso resembles other sculptures from the period, for instance Bianco of the same year, now in the Bonalumi Archive. A poster for a 1970 exhibition also featured one of these works within the space of the legendary Galleria del Naviglio in Milan.
At the time that he made Rosso, Bonalumi was moving more and more into three dimensions in his works. Indeed, it was only two years earlier, in 1967, that he had created his Blu abitabile, an immersive installation of interlocking blue elements that towered above the viewer, three metres each in height. This was one of the first of Bonalumi's large-scale projects and revealed a new interest in the role of space in his works. In a sense, the notion of a room, a confined area, surrounded by the shaped picture panels of Blu abitabile is inverted in Rosso. This is a sculpture which defines the space around, as opposed to within, its confines. And it does so in a dynamic way, through its swooping lines and occasional sharp turns.
Rosso is a lyrical work that is filled with a latent sense of energy and movement. It has a sensual quality, indeed, that is only heightened by the intense red sheen. This is a work that bespeaks the elegance not only of Bonalumi's vision, but also of Italian design during the 1960s. Looking at the flowing, aerodynamic lines of the cars made by Ferrari during this period, one can see a clear correlation. In this sense, it is interesting to note the parallel visual language being employed by various other artists working in Italy at the same time, for instance Alighiero Boetti, with Rosso Gilera and Rosso Guzzi, his monochrome red pictures made using the slightly differing shades of motorcycle paint favoured by two different companies, or Pino Pascali, with his sculptural works made using shaped canvas, for instance in the form of a woman's lips, Primo piano labbra of 1965, now in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome. All three artists have tapped into the building blocks of art, all three have reinvented the monochrome for their own purposes. In all of these, the seductive song of red, that hot, sensual colour, and of Italian design, are therefore celebrated and subverted in equal measure.