Critics’ Picks

Dadamaino, Volume a moduli sfasati, 1960, perforated plastic film on wooden stretchers, 27 1/2 x 19 3/4".

Dadamaino, Volume a moduli sfasati, 1960, perforated plastic film on wooden stretchers, 27 1/2 x 19 3/4".



Galerie Knoell
Luftgässlein 4/ Bäumleingasse 18
September 1–October 29, 2022

An orange plane stands apart from the array of black-and-white in this exhibition of mostly early works by Dadamaino. A rare foray into color for the late Italian artist, this piece from her 1960 series “Volume a moduli sfasati” (Volume of Displaced Modules) asks how a tangerine tone might inflect the tension between uniformity and contingency enacted by these wall works, each comprising two layers of stretched, hole-punched, translucent plastic. The orange plastic prompts associations with the hue’s stylishness throughout the 1960s—these sheets were repurposed shower curtains, after all—while the same tone roughly applied to the framing wood assumes a painterly quality: both perhaps reasons why Dadamaino rarely employed color. Hers was primarily a spatial inquiry, as evinced by the title’s emphasis on volume.

The exhibition’s focus on “Volume of Displaced Modules,” as well as the “Volume” series from 1958–1960, draws out the nuances of the artist’s early serial experimentation as part of the Milanese avant-garde. For instance, Volume, 1958, is a small-scale watercolor from the latter series in which Dadamaino cut ovoids into canvas. The edges of the hand-cut openings are jagged, while, in another piece from that year, pencil marks for a wider gap remain visible around an oblong shape. In one example with two holes from 1959, black tempera produces a streamlined surface. The subtle evolution that emerges from these processes—as well as the dialogue between these two overlapping and (relatively) short-lived bodies of work—prompts the question of what led her to abandon these courses of creation. Did she reach a stage of resolution, breakthrough, disinterest?

Did her position as a woman at the forefront of minimal abstraction influence her resolute departure for new sets of formal constraints, distinct from peers like Lucio Fontana and Daniel Buren who slashed and striped ad infinitum? The show offers no easy answer, but instead provides space for thinking through the conditions that undergird persistent experimentation.