Agostino Bonalumi (born July 10, 1935, Vimercate, Italy–died September 18, 2013, Desio, Italy) was an Italian abstract artist who by the late 50s had become active in the vibrant art scene of Milan, where he met Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. Together, these three artists founded the short-lived but influential gallery Azimut in Milan, as well as its two-issue in-house journal Azimuth. Operating out of the sub-basement of a furniture store, the gallery exhibited some of the most innovative art of its time and, along with its publication, was instrumental in propagating international currents of the avant-garde, such as the German Zero group, the French Nouveaux Réalistes, and the American Neo-Dada art of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
During his long career spanning more than five decades, Agostino Bonalumi was a leading figure in the Italian avant-garde. He achieved his breakthrough in 1959 with his creation of shaped vinyl-coated monochromatic canvases, which he named “extroflections.” Specially outfitting his stretcher bars with shaped relief elements that pressed against the back of the tightened canvas, Bonalumi created canvases with saturated tones or white monochromes that appeared animated by a mysterious presence lurking beneath the surface. These works represented a radical departure from the gestural abstraction of Informel painting then dominant in Europe. Demonstrating a sculptor’s capacity for inventive three-dimensional forms, Bonalumi intervened on his canvases with bulging volumes, concaved spaces, undulating linear elements, and geometric patterning.
Bonalumi’s progetti (projects) occupy an important place in his practice. Conceived as a form of “meta-pictorial” visual research, the progetti that Bonalumi began making in the early 1970s combine diagrams or preparatory drawings alongside small-scale three-dimensional models of his extroflections. Unlike an architectural plan, however, the progetti bring different aspects of Bonalumi’s forms into an experimental relationship with each other that serves no instrumental purpose, and therefore function as stand-alone works. Bonalumi said of the progetti, “I generally start with something I have created, making the ‘project’ become an autonomous work later on. There is always an aspect of ambiguity in all my works. For me it is like constantly checking the meaning of the research, and you never know where it will take you.”
Bonalumi’s work has been shown in numerous major solo and group exhibitions, including the Venice and São Paulo biennials, and it is part of the collections of several museums, including Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, the Museu Coleçao Berardo in Lisbon, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Recent retrospectives of the artist’s work have been held at the Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, Germany, in 2003 and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2011. Agostino Bonalumi died in September.
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Agostino Bonalumi at the Guggenheim Venice
Last updated: November 8, 2019
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Milan, Italy (2019)
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Milan, Italy (2016)
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