Agostino Bonalumi

(1935, in Vimercate, Milan, Italy – 2013 in Monza, Italy)

Agostino Bonalumi was born on the 10th of July 1935 in Vimercate, Milan. He studied technical design and mechanics. As a self-taught painter, he began to show his work at a young age. In 1958, the Bonalumi Castellani and Manzoni group emerged with a show at the Galleria Pater in Milan, followed by other shows in Rome, Milan and Lausanne. In 1961 at the Kasper Gallery in Lausanne, he was one of the founding members of the Nuova Scuola Europea group. Arturo Schwarz acquired his works and, in 1965, he organized a solo show of Bonalumi’s works at his gallery in Milan, for which Gillo Dorfles wrote a catalogue essay. In 1966, Bonalumi began a long standing collaboration with Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, which became his exclusive agent. In 1973, the gallery published a large monograph edited by Gillo Dorfles for Edizioni del Naviglio. In 1966, Bonalumi was invited to the Venice Biennale with a group of works and, in 1970, with a solo room. He then spent a period of study and work in Mediterranean Africa and in the United States, where he debuted with a solo show at the Bonino Gallery in New York. In 1967, he was invited to the São Paulo Biennale and, in 1968, to the Youth Biennale in Paris.

In 1980, he staged a major retrospective at the Palazzo Te in Mantua, which covered his entire career. In 2001, he was awarded the Presidente della Repubblica Prize, which was celebrated with a solo show at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome in 2002. The following year, the Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt installed the solo show Agostino Bonalumi: malerei in der dritten dimension. Furthermore, Bonalumi produced environmental-painting works including, Blu abitabile for the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine in Foligno (1967) and Grande Nero (1968), for a solo show at the Museum Ostwall in Dortmund, Germany. He also created the installation Dal giallo al bianco e dal bianco al giallo in 1979, for the exhibition Pittura Ambiente at the Palazzo Reale in Milan. Other peculiar works by Bonalumi include, Spazio trattenuto e spazio invaso, produced in 2002 for the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice.

In 1970s, he worked in the field of stage design and created sets and costumes for the ballet Partita at the Teatro Romano in Verona. Despite suffering from a long-term illness, Bonalumi continued to work assiduously, developing his work up to the last years of his life. He also completed a cycle of bronze sculptures based on designs during the end of the 1960s. Brussels, Moscow, New York and Singapore are a few of the world capitals which have hosted solo shows of his work during his final period of activity. In summer 2013, he collaborated on the realisation of a major exhibition in London, the opening of which he unfortunately did not live to see. Agostino Bonalumi died in Monza on 18 September 2013.

The life and career of Vincenzo Agnetti are symbolized by his self-portrait Quando mi vidi non c’ero (When I Saw Myself I Wasn’t There). As a result, it is perhaps difficult to reconstruct it in any detail without losing something important: hence the decision to use many of the artist’s own words, even if they may sometimes seem disjointed, like a reflection in a mirror that immediately disappears.

Vincenzo Agnetti was born in Milan on 14 September 1926. He graduated at the Brera Academy and then attended the Piccolo Teatro school. There, when he was just 21, he met Bruna Soletti, the woman who would be his partner and helper for life, almost his alter ego. He started working in the field of Art Informel and poetry at a very young age, although nothing remains of this period except his account of it: “What I did, thought and heard, I’ve now forgotten by heart: this is the first authentic document.”

Questa è la didascalia del tag Figure di layout

His earliest works, which seem to have been lost, fuelled the deep and meaningful career of an artist who produced most of his work over the course of just under fifteen years, from 1967 to 1981. Although these ideas, reflections, painterly and poetic actions no longer exist, they obscurely and methodically formed the course of a rich and concentrated experience that might otherwise seem to have exploded suddenly.

They are memories that stand out in the minds of those who were closest to him, in the mind of a  daughter, establishing as a place of belonging. His beautiful paintings on the walls and his pottery around the house recall clips from his life stored in distant memories, transformed into places of the mind. The memory of his voice coming from the room next door, reading Proust in the evening before saying goodnight, drawing me into a mental world whose content was unknown to me as a child, but whose intonation was packed with meaning, is a part of my mind that is difficult, perhaps impossible, to describe. No visible traces remain of any of this.

“Culture is learning to forget, just like what happens when we eat. However well prepared, we soon forget the flavour of food, allowing the energy we derive from it to take over. In a certain sense we forget the flavours, poisonings and pleasures of eating by heart, moving our legs, our arms, our heads forward more freely.”

The concept of forgetting by heart represents and unites the first phase of Agnetti’s life and career. Although we can no longer see or hear him, we can appreciate this aspect of his art and life. For example all his most important emotional and work-related experiences have been forgotten by heart, but emerge as the artistic results of a hidden process.

The period he spent with just a handful of friends, including Castellani and Manzoni, with whom he shared ideals, plans and artistic aspirations, dates to the late 1950s and early 1960s. His private life was also permeated by this intellectual fervour, which was complete and structured, but had yet to show itself.