Performing one of the most revolutionary conceptual gestures of contemporary art, Manzoni radically depersonalised his paintings, conceiving them as self-generating and autonomous, free from external infuence. Subjectivity was banished in favour of the object itself. Manzoni accomplished his visionary aim through the use of kaolin, a sof china clay originally employed in porcelain manufacture. To create Achrome, he frst glued the canvas into an arrangement of folds and creases and then applied the chalky white kaolin solution on it. During the drying process, the kaolin enhanced the sculptural plasticity of the surface undulations, allowing the painting to achieve its fnal state without Manzoni’s intervention. Achrome appears as a plain white monochrome, interrupted by a vibrant horizontal band of sculptural folds and recesses. Manzoni allows these pleats to recall the drapery of classical and
Renaissance statuary, his kaolin evoking the solidity of marble while retaining the fragility of plaster. In this way, Achrome is sufused with a materiality that is entirely its own. 1958 was the frst year of Manzoni’s Achromes, which he kept creating in a number of diferent iterations until his premature death in 1963, when he was only thirty. During his brief life, Manzoni established an entirely new approach to making and viewing art, conceiving of the picture surface and its materiality as the real subject of the work, liberating art from the artist and therefore allowing it to become universal. 1958 also marked Manzoni’s afliation with the ZERO movement alongside Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana and Enrico Castellani. The group sought to eradicate all forms of representation within art and to move beyond the limits of canvas to explore the mystery of other dimensions.
Piero Manzoni in his atelier in Via Diori Oscuri, Milan, 1958. © DACS 2015. Photo by © Ennio Vicario
Phillips presents the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 9 February in London.