‘With Strutturazione pulsante, I set out to create a visual object that, free from analogical or evocative interpretations in terms of pre-existing reality…would be presented as a visual, predominantly optical communication, where the viewer is in contact with controlled structuring in every spatial component and every kinetic phase’ (Colombo, ‘Ricerche a Milano agli inizi deli anni ‘60’ in C. Christov-Bakargiev and M. Scotini (eds.), Gianni Colombo, exh. cat., Turin, 2010, p. 118).
Executed in 1959, Gianni Colombo’s Strutturazione pulsante is composed of monochromatic white polystyrene blocks arranged in a structured grid. These seemingly immobile geometric forms are however in a constant state of flux, as they continuously pulsate, driven by an electric motor, as if the structure or ‘wall’ is living and breathing. Moving and penetrating the space of the spectator over an extended period of time, Strutturazione pulsante embodies Colombo’s early conception of a kinetic art that would incorporate and interact with the viewer in real space and time. Like Piero Manzoni’s colourless Achromes and Enrico Castellani’s Superficies, Colombo’s Strutturazione pulsante is an autonomous work that focuses on the inherent materiality and physicality of its moving structure, a precursor for the artist’s future explorations of kinetic art, as well as the developments of monochrome and Minimalism. Free from representation, it presents a fundamentally new approach to the concept of painting; no longer a static, illusory surface made for removed contemplation, it is in constant motion, integrating the viewer and activating the space surrounding the work.
Strutturazione pulsante was created during a ground-breaking period in the development of conceptual art. In Milan in 1959, Colombo had founded Gruppo T with Giovanni Anceschi, Davide Boriani and Gabriele De Vecchi, later joined by Grazia Varisco. These artists wished to create kinetic and optical art in the form of spatial environments and installations, which would involve the spectator in the work itself, breaking down the conventional artistic boundaries between mediums. This same year, Manzoni and Castellani founded both Azimuth, a periodical and Azimut, a gallery, which Colombo and Gruppo T, as well as a host of other international artists, participated in. With these two means of dissemination, these artists proposed a radical new conception of art: shifting the focus from mimetic representation to that of a perceptual experience. Strutturazione pulsante is a work that embodies this shift, redefining the traditional parameters of art by engaging a variety of new materials, processes and technologies and adding a temporal dimension to the experience of the work itself.