Review of Bonalumi Sculptures, Mazzoleni Art, London

Review of Bonalumi Sculptures, Mazzoleni Art, London

For its second exhibition, Mazzoleni Art, London, welcomes a retrospective of Italian artist Agostino Bonalumi’s innovative work. The collection serves not only as a comprehensive study of Bonalumi’s enduring artistic interests; namely the importance of aesthetic and form but also signifies an important step in reinforcing the artist’s reputation on the international art scene. Indeed, the exhibition coincides with the international presentation of a large scale monograph, Bonalumi Sculptures; a collaboration between Mazzoleni gallery and the artist’s estate.

For the decade prior to Bonalumi’s death in 2013, the artist and gallery manager, Luigi Mazzoleni, had worked closely together in a professional capacity with Mazzoleni acting as Bonalumi’s agent. This connection is immediately apparent in a clearly shared aesthetic of minimalist opulence between both the works and the gallery space. Curator Francesca Pola presents viewers with a placating union of corresponding forms and colours where all of the pieces work in harmony without conflict or discord. The environment created within the gallery is one of almost high-end interior design, in which the objects invite admiration rather than contemplation. Bonalumi’s work is a reflection of the period of Post-War economic boom, during which he commenced his career, and as a result it represents artistic experimentation without a sense of duty to represent subject matter.

His work, along with that of close friends and fellow artists, Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni, signified a move away from Arte Informale, an art movement that began after World War II and saw an emphasis on appearance to the detriment of form. For Bonalumi form was of integral importance; he sought to create objects that would be critiqued for their structure and surface qualities rather than as spaces of representation. Yet at the same time he did not want to abandon the aesthetic entirely, as he felt that to lose the visual qualities of an art object would too much blur the boundaries with industry.

Walking around the gallery it is interesting to note an almost obsessive repetition of shape and colour, with variation between the works occurring most prominently in the material employed. Each substance interacts with light differently and this manipulates the manner in which the viewer approaches the works. The fibre-glass, ceramic and bronze pieces reflect light in order to create sleek, sensual curves that captivate the viewer’s attention, even from afar, whilst the vinyl tempera and acrylic works noticeably consume the light, thus drawing us ever closer to the work in an attempt to define the parameters of the shape.

Pola, who previously worked with Bonalumi in 2013 on Robilant + Veona’s exhibition, All the Shapes of Space, has utilised spotlights in order to emphasise these characteristics so that the protrusions and creases of each work are perfectly defined. Whether you are already familiar with Bonalumi’s works or not, this at Mazzoleni Art exhibition is worth a visit in order to experience the artistic vision of one of Italy’s great Post-War masters.

Bonalumi Sculptures, until 4 April, Mazzoleni Art Limited, 27, Albemarle Street, W1S 4HZ, London.

Rhiannon McGregor

1. Agostino Bonalumi, Bianco e Nero 1968, Shaped Ciré, 120 x 100 cm, Courtesy Archivio Bonalumi and Mazzoleni London.