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AGOSTINO BONALUMI

(1935-2013)

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Born in Vimercate in 1935, after an education in technical and mechanical drawing, Agostino Bonalumi started his career as a self-taught painter and had his first solo exhibition in 1956 at the Galleria Totti in Milan. While visiting the studio of painter Enrico Baj he met Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani, with whom he would exhibit in Rome, Lausanne, and Milan in 1958. A year later, Bonalumi and Castellani founded the journal Azimuth and began to frequent Lucio Fontana’s studio. This led Bonalumi to investigate the concept of space and to produce his first ‘estroflessioni’, consisting in stretching and deforming the canvases through structures and frames built behind them. Following in Fontana’s footsteps, he thus focused his research on the space behind the canvas, developing the idea of “pittura-oggetto” (painting-object). In the 1960s, Bonalumi turned to works that engaged in an active relationship with the public, realising emblematic pieces such as Blu abitabile (1967), Grande ambiente bianco e nero (1968), and Dal giallo al bianco e dal bianco al giallo (1979). The artist also took part in several editions of the Venice Biennale: in 1966 for the first time, in 1970 with his personal room, and finally in 1986. In 1980, the Palazzo Te in Mantua dedicated a major retrospective to his work, and the following year Bonalumi joined artists Dorazio, Rotella and Santomaso in the group show Italian Art: Four Contemporary Directions at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bonalumi was also interested in set design: he conceived the scenes and costumes for Susanna Egri’s ballet Partita, performed at the Teatro Romano in Verona in 1970, and for the ballet Rot, staged in 1972 at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. In 2002 he was awarded the “Presidente della Repubblica Prize” and on this occasion the Accademia Nazionale di S. Luca presented a retrospective of his work at the Palazzo Carpegna in Rome. The same year he took part in the exhibition Themes and Variations at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Most recently, in 2003-2004, the Institut Mathildenhöe, Darmstadt dedicated an anthological exhibition to him. Despite a long-term illness, Bonalumi never stopped evolving in his research. This drove him to complete a cycle of bronze sculptures based on projects he had developed in the late sixties. During the last period of activity, his work was exhibited in many cities worldwide, such as Brussels, London, Moscow, New York and Singapore. He died in September 2013.

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