Executed in 1960, Achrome is beyond minimalism. Indeed, it is beyond 'ism' in any sense. Manzoni has deliberately stripped away as much content as possible, stripped away any hint of representation, instead presenting the viewer literally with a blank canvas. He has eschewed paint, instead using a colorless clay and celebrating this factor in his title. Where Yves Klein's Monochromes celebrated and condensed a single color, Manzoni avoids it completely. In this way, Manzoni was blazing a trail, attacking the Gordian Knot of artistic innovation in order to reach a universal and uncontrived work of art:
"It is clear that there can be no concern with symbolism and description, memories, misty impressions, of childhood, pictorism, sentimentalism: all this must be absolutely excluded. So must every hedonistic repetition of arguments that have already been exhausted, since the man who continues to trifle with myths that have already been discovered is an aesthete, and worse" ("For the Discovery of a Zone of Images", undated but presumably 1957, reproduced in Piero Manzoni: Paintings, Reliefs & Objects, exh. cat., London, 1974, p. 17).
Despite his own rhetoric, Achrome shows a discreet yet palpable sense of the aesthetic in its Zen-like simplicity. The horizontal pleats resemble the horizon, perhaps even shimmering like an expanse of water. However, the horizon is one element that remains the highest common factor between all humanity, earth-bound as we, with very few exceptions, are. In this sense, Achrome's pleats act as a prompt for the viewer. Like a Rorschach test, they hint at visions and images deep in our minds, but as the canvas is blank and essentially avoids any subjective components, it attains a universal quality, fulfilling Manzoni's further criteria:
"We absolutely cannot consider the picture as a space on to which to project our mental scenography. It is the area of freedom in which we search for the discovery of our first images.
'Images which are as absolute as possible, which cannot be valued for what they record, explain and express, but only for that which they are: to be" (Manzoni, quoted in Ibid., 1974, p. 17).
Manzoni working on an Achrome in his studio c 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome