In October Robilant+Voena will present the first solo exhibition of Gianni Colombo in the UK, organised with the Archivio Gianni Colombo. Curated by Francesca Pola and Marco Scotini, the show will celebrate the work of Colombo during the 1960s and 1970s: the two crucial creative decades of his activity, which saw his affirmation as one of the pioneers of contemporary environmental practices.
The exhibition comes more than fifty years after Colombo’s participation in seminal UK group shows such as Art in Motion – the Random and the Planned in 1964 at the Royal College of Art and In Motion. An Arts Council exhibition of kinetic art in 1966.
The chronology of the exhibition is related to key moments in Colombo’s artistic course: from 1959, the year he co-founded Gruppo T and first exhibited his work in the international context of the Galleria Azimut, to 1980, when he realized his first London environment, Topoestesia, 8 situazioni entrexit (Topoesthesia – 8 Entrexit Situations) for the exhibition Pier + Ocean. Construction in the Art of the Seventies at Hayward Gallery, whose original maquette will be on display at Robilant+Voena.
Colombo’s practice aimed at overcoming the traditional notion of art as an object to contemplate, in order to create work that requires the active involvement of the viewer. From his tactile pieces and works in motion of the late 1950s, to his immersive light installations of the 1960, into his mature large-scale environments, he conceived art as the place for an experience, which belongs to both the body and the mind.
His investigation of space is led by the idea of changing the spectator’s conventional relationship with reality, both physically and psychically, encompassing also a broad dialogue with technology and architecture. Colombo’s space is a space experienced in a total way, anticipating issues of perceptual and immersive researches and audience participation that are still important in the art of today.
The highlight of the exhibition will be one of Colombo’s largest and most important environments: Topoestesia – tre zone contigue (itinerario programmato) (Topoesthesia – three contiguous zones [programmed itinerary]), 1965–70, first shown in the exhibition Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960/1970 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome (1970), where it became the subject of wonderful photographs by Ugo Mulas, also included in the R+V exhibition. It is composed by three immersive subsequent spaces, featuring progressive topological deformation and rhythmic illuminations: visitors are invited to enter the work and, in walking through it, to experience a series of unconventional relationships with space and time. This will be the first time this seminal work will be presented outside of Italy.
The exhibition will bring together over 30 pivotal examples of Colombo’s work in investigating the body and the space, including many previously unseen and unpublished works: from early experiments in ceramic and felt, to pieces such as Strutturazione pulsante (Pulsating Structuralisation), Strutturazione fluida (Fluid Structuralisation), Roto-Optic, to light-based pieces from the 1960s and 1970s. A specific focus is devoted to the seminal cycle Spazio elastico (Elastic Space), originated by his crucial 1967 environment realized for the exhibition Trigon 67 in Graz, which was awarded a prize at the Venice Biennale in 1968. Together with rare drawings and documents the show will be completed by Colombo’s only video art work, realized in 1970 in collaboration with the Italian conceptual artist Vincenzo Agnetti: Vobulazione e bieloquenza neg (Wobulation and Bieloquence Neg).
The exhibition is accompanied by a 260 page book, written and edited by Francesca Pola and Marco Scotini and including an essay by Guy Brett, published by Marsilio Editore.