Enrico Castellani obituary

By Oliver Basciano

One of the great Italian artists of the 20th century, regarded as the ‘father of minimalism'

Enrico Castellani, who has died aged 87, was a quiet man who made quiet art. Yet he was regarded not only as one of the great Italian artists of the 20th century, but the “father of minimalism”. It was the American artist Donald Judd who dubbed him thus, but Castellani's art was rooted in the avant-garde milieu of mid-20th century Europe.

At first glance his work shows little variation: the 1959 painting Superficie Nera a Rilievo, the first in which Castellani manipulated the surface of a canvas, bears easy comparison to Superficie Bianca – Dittico, a typical work from 2009. In the former, Castellani broke the uniformity of the black monochrome by inserting neat rows of hazelnuts under the canvas during stretching. The nuts lift the surface from its frame, creating a topographical grid of protrusions.

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