This is the first exhibition to focus uniquely on the relationship between these two bodies of work and will include a recently rediscovered and never before exhibited Linea, as well as a key example of the Line of Infinite Length series. Other highlights will include two Achromes that are rarely exhibited in public. A number of further examples from each series will expose the shared qualities, both conceptually and materially, of these works that were of crucial relevance to Manzoni’s development as an artist. The exhibition will mark the anniversary of Manzoni’s death on 6 February 1963 at the age of 29 and will also form part of a series of exhibitions in 2016 celebrating 30 years of Mazzoleni Art.
Piero Manzoni was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, known for his radical and playful spirit, which has precipitated much international research. He is best known for Fiato d’Artista (Artist’s Breath, 1960), works that consisted of balloons inflated by the artist, Merda d’Artista (Artist’s Shit, 1961), sealed cans of uncertain contents, and Sculture viventi (Living Sculptures, 1961-62), people the artist designated works of art by signing his name on them. All of these series commented on the consumer society of postwar Italy but, above all, transformed the body and its component parts into works of art. This exhibition will bring to the fore the Achromes and Linee, in order to focus on Manzoni’s commitment to developing forms that created an intrinsic link between materials and the idea of the ‘infinite’. From 1959 Manzoni focused entirely on manifesting the infinite, saying in his 1960 text Free Dimension that ‘this indefinite surface, uniquely alive, even if in the material contingency the work cannot be infinite, is, however, infinitable, infinitely repeatable, without a solution of continuity.’
The exhibition will include a number of Achromes from the 1950s and the 1960s. ‘Achrome’ means ‘colourless’ or ‘neutral’ and the Achromes series consists of a number of pale works constructed in a wide variety of materials. Manzoni produced Achromes using kaolin, stitched canvases, stones, expanded polystyrene balls, expanded polystyrene and phosphorescent paint, examples of which will appear in the exhibition. The works’ lack of colour and the simplicity of their materials lent them the capability to be endlessly repeatable, and thus infinite, almost like atoms. Curator of the exhibition, Gaspare Luigi Marcone, said that ‘For Manzoni, the total experimentation presented in the Achromes is itself a line of infinite research.’ The Linee were the first three-dimensional works that Manzoni produced, seeking to escape the bi- dimensionality of the painting medium. The first Linea was produced in the spring of 1959 and consisted of one black horizontal line on paper. The unseen Linea (c.1960) in the exhibition will be an example of this style. From the summer of 1959, Manzoni also went on to create longer Linea, scrolls that were rolled up in black cylinders with labels indicating the length of the piece and the date of its creation. In 1960 Manzoni radicalised this concept by creating several Linea di Lunghezza Infinita (Lines of Infinite Length), which consisted only of black cylinders with labels stating ‘Contains a line of infinite length. Piero Manzoni ’60’. A rare example of this series will appear in the exhibition and Manzoni said of these works that their ‘only dimension is time.’
The exhibition will also include a wide collection of unseen archival material, which aims to demonstrate both the artist’s extensive exhibition activity throughout the 1950s and the 1960s and the consistently theoretical and investigative nature of his activities as an artist. Manzoni’s own handwritten letters and notes will be shown alongside rare exhibition catalogues and invitation cards as well as photographs of the artist at work.