Spazio Ambiente, 1970

Basel 2017
Spazio Ambiente


acrylic on shaped canvas
550.0 x 210.0 x 530.0 (cm)
216.5 x 82.7 x 208.7 (inch)
In the late 1950s, Enrico Castellani began experimenting with pictorial space through the use of ‘extroflection’ in shaped canvases. Using nails to stretch the canvas surface, Castellani pushed the boundaries of painting. For the 1966 Venice Biennale, in a room all on their own, Castellani’s paintings implicated the surrounding architecture by extending the viewers’ gaze beyond the canvas edge. This installation was an important precursor to Spazio Ambiente, created in 1967 under the title Ambiente Bianco for the exhibition ‘La spazio dell’immagine’ at the Palazzo Trinci in Foligno. Of this original installation, only three panels survive. In 1970, Castellani recreated the work for the landmark exhibition ‘Vitality of the Negative in Italian Art, 1960–70’ at Palazzo delle Esposizione in Rome. What the Venice work intimated, Spazio Ambiente realized on a truly immersive scale. Shaped canvases surround the viewer, negating any sense of the room’s architecture through large arches which traverse the room. The viewer’s perception is altered according to the shape of the painting, whereas its materiality gives way to an ephemeral experience conditioned by the play of light and space.