/ Getulio Alviani: In search of a responsive vision

Jérôme Neutres


This survey exhibition dedicated to Getulio Alviani (1939-2018) at ALIEN ART CENTRE, initiated by Director Yaman Shao, happens to be the very first one exhibition of the master artist in Taiwan, and Eastern Asia. This historical show counts with major iconic works coming from the own collection of the artist. The present selection of masterpieces aims to testify how Alviani participated to revolutionize our definition and relationship with the art creation and reception, in the framework of leading art movements of the second half of the 20th Century named by art historians Kinetic art, Programmed art, or OpArt. I thank particularly for her support Mrs Diora Fraglica who manages the important archives of Getulio Alviani and is president of Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani to preserve and promote the legacy of her late partner.

environment, rilievo a riflessione con incidenza ortogonale, praticabile steel. 1967, 5x480x960 cm, modules 5x80x80 cm © Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani

Today, the art historians and art centers are indeed finally rediscovering Getulio Alviani’s new and fundamental contribution to the development of the contemporary art, and how his research on the optical perception of visual art has announced the developments of the digital generative and interactive art in the 21st Century. A series of shows have been highlighting those last years this pioneer contribution of Alviani, since Los Cineticos major exhibition at Reina Sofia museum Madrid, and the Paris Grand palais Dynamo group exhibition in 2013, until the New York MoMA show Thinking Machines: art and design in the Computer Age in 2018. Art spaces in New York, Dubai, and soon in Milano, Torino, Firenze and Bergamo, are presented solo exhibitions of Alviani, such as an important tribute planned by the Sozanni Foundation.

Dynamo exhibition at Grand Palais © WIKIPEDIA

A founding member of the New Tendencies movement

Getulio Alviani liked to introduce himself as an « ideatore plastic » - a visual art inventor. Indeed, the master was one of those inventors of forms who are according to me the true artists, reinventing or re-interpreting art history legacy. Born in 1939 in Udine, North Italy, the young Getulio Alviani first worked in the Udine studio of the awarded sculptor Max Piccini, acquiring knowledge and manual skills of sculpturing. Then he worked in a studio of architects and engineers (Biasi-D'Olivo) and in the large electrical equipment industry as visual art designer, a professional experience which will familiarize the young artist to the technics of visual communication and the industrial material as a source of art creation. Working for this electric fabric, Alviani got fascinated by wires systems and his very first series of artworks will be “Wires” at the end of the 1950’s. Alviani signature light lines were born, leading to those milled and precise metal surfaces composed according to mathematical schemes that he started to initiate in second half of the 1950’s: his very innovative “Superficie a testura vibratile” (vibrating texture surfaces), that would turn into his signature works on the world art stage. Alviani’s first international exhibition took place in 1961 at the Mala Galerija of Ljubljana. That year, Alviani joined the very avant-gardist movement of the New Tendencies, launched in Zagreb, Croatia, by art critic Matko Mestrovic, Brazilian Artist Almir Mavignier, museum director Bozo Bek, and Croatian artist Ivan Picellj.

superficie tornita 4 ¼ di disco © Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani

The funding show New Tendencies in 1961, embraced different groups of artists from all over the world, all born in the 1930’s, and all in search of a new definition of the art creation and experience. The movement included Parisians François Morellet and Julio Le Parc, South American artists, and Italians such as Alviani’s close friends Jesus Soto, Carlos Cruz Diez, Enrico Castellani, Pieri D’Orazio, Piero Manzoni… All those young artists were very inspired by the Bahaus principles, as well by pioneer artists such as Nicolas Schöffer and Jean Tinguely. They created innovative electro-mechanical moving objects, manual and virtual, focusing on the research on visual perception. They used oil and canvas, but also and mostly industrial material such as aluminum, plastic or glass, founding their art creation on geometry and mathematics rather than poetic improvisation. About the New Tendencies movement, Getulio Alviani wrote later: « We worked - with diligence and without the desire for fame - on optical problems, perception, virtual images, the intrinsic dynamism of the work, the intervention of the spectator, on light and space, on seriality, new materials and on an unseen presentation of what was known, with mathematics and exact forms as a base. All of this was conducted with a new spirit, with a rationality and logic that promoted new operative modes, different expressive possibilities and all those elaborated phenomena, ideologies and psychologies relative to the problems of the visual and the optical. These were needs that addressed the human conscious, yet with a research approach closer to science.

Schermata 2010-09-13 a 19.39.59 copia 2 © Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani

We wanted to give art a scientific meaning and consequently a social dimension. » In the same spirit, Getulio Alviani also became part of the international ZERO group, founded in Germany in the late 1950’s by Otto Piene on similar theorical basis, and he also accompanied for some years the Kinetic artists of the G.R.A.V. movement, such as François Morellet, Yvaral, Joël Stein or Francesco Sobrino - a movement who wanted to « highlight the visual instability and the time of the perception” . In that framework of the artistic revolutions of the post-world-war II reconstruction era, Getulio Alviani’s research has set up some fundaments of the major visual developments linked to the light and the movement in the art experience. His work matched in that sense with the research of artists such as Josef Albers (for his work on color) with who Alviani exhibited at the Denise René Gallery, or Max Bill (for his work on the light), and it announced the later developments of James Turrell.

Birth of the Programmed Art

Getulio Alviani is undoubtedly the most representative Italian artist of what has been named by Umberto Eco in 1962 the Programmed Art in his essay to present the Arte Programmata exhibition organized that year in Italy and touring after to Germany and UK. A pioneer exhibition so far not enough studied by the Art historians. Umberto Eco was then analyzing the pioneering Kinetic developments of young artists of New Tendencies such as Getulio Alviani, who continued in an original way the research of Russian Constructivism and Bauhaus to open new possibilities of forms in the visual arts thanks to the applications to art of some mathematics theories, and to impose therefore a new interactive relationship between the viewer and the artwork. For Umberto Eco, a new generation of artists like Alviani was in search of “a liberation of man from his acquired formal habits, this is truly a requirement for breaking perceptual patterns. If perceptual habits pushed us to appreciate a form every time it presented itself as something accomplished and finished, it was then necessary to invent forms which, on the contrary, never let the attention rest, but appear to us each time times different from themselves.” Indeed, geometric order and precise programming were the new pencils used by artists such as Getulio Alviani to create works that could "widen the field of what is perceptible" through optical events. The artist introduced in art a new medium, through realizing artworks with aluminium sheets: the famous “surfaces with vibratory texture”. An innovative art research based on a scientific type of analysis of the optical-dynamic perception and its possibilities in terms of interaction; and a planning method breaking with the bohemian causality of another category of artistic creation at that time. In that sense, Getulio Alviani’s research was logically related to the Kinetic art research (later this research will be renamed after the more impactful concept of “OpArt” invented by the art press). Alviani’s work became recognizable, mostly through the original shape of prototypes of vibrantly textured milled aluminum surfaces that will remain his tangible signature. Characterized by transparencies and by kaleidoscopic effects that can be changed depending on the visual angle and the incidence of light, those innovative art objects, true sculptures hanged to the wall as 3D paintings, are rigorously designed: the surface, eclectically milled with a precision determined by programming pre-established, continually changes depending on the positions of the visual angles and the light, generating always different images. Alviani’s works manifested in a very innovative way a search for geometric proportions generated by mathematical calculations, and contrasts between primary or complementary colors. Combining art and science, Getulio Alviani proposed to reconceive the relation of the artwork to the observer’s point of view and stimulate it by using the refraction of luminous effects on metallic surfaces and the observer’s movements. Indeed, the viewer can still see today in those pioneer artworks objects that change physically according to the viewing movement, and how the individual’s visual perception become part of the work. In that sense, Alviani can be considered as a leading figure of the pre-history of the Generative and interactive art, the most interesting art practice of what is called digital art – though I always propose the term Computing art as a more relevant concept for this field of visual art. During the decade of the 1970’s, Alviani also focused on a very interesting chromatic phenomenology –spectrochromies -, as well as the creation of three-dimensional structures after mathematical formulas. In his series of paintings and collages of circles exploring the spectrology of the colors, Getulio Alviani is as a matter of fact the first artist after Leonardo da Vinci to use the circle to design new forms and shapes, operating a very innovative application of the geometric theory of Pythagora to art.

Riflessione trasparente, 1/2 da 0 a 100, 1/2 100% offset, ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

Exploring the art experience to renew it: Alviani as an artist and researcher.

Getulio Alviani designed in the 1960’s-1970’s art objects never seen before, dynamic-optical structures which induced very meaningful luminous vibration effects. A sculptor as well as an engineer, Alviani produced then polyvalent monochrome structures in relation to the light and movement, opening new possibilities in the art experience. The ‘Vibrating Texture Surfaces’ remain indeed the most famous of his projects: steel and aluminium sheets, made freehand, conceived following a precise geometrical order. Alviani used to define those programmed works as “exact works”. The metal surfaces change continuously according to the positions of the visual angles and the luminous incidence, always generating different images. In the opinion of leading Italian Art Historian Giulio Carlo Argan, Getulio Alviani appeared as « the Michelangelo of the third Millenar”. Argan was fascinated by the fact that “these works -in which the artist’s operation induces particular effects of luminous reflection and refraction -are both works of art in the usual sense of the term and promoters of visual experience”. Alviani also developed in parallel innovative graphic research. From 1962 to 1963 he realised some black and white drawings, for serigraphs, pushing the borders of the research of optical art, which caught immediately the attention of senior curators. His Tensione series we present in our show is particularly iconic of that research. In 1964 Alviani started studying chromostructures and standard elements for wall sets. In the same year, he was invited to participate in the XXXII Biennale in Venice, where he presented four ‘vibratile weave surfaces’ in a room shared with Italian fellows artists Enrico Castellani and Enzo Mari. In 1965, he designed his first ‘environment’ (Ambiente), Specular Interrelationship. In the second half of the 1960s, he produced luminous objects with mechanical movement, studying the diaphragm between eye and referent object, and invented environments making use of the mobility of water and fire. He also produced a manifesto on the « Pneumatic Space » (objects and spaces of volume varying according to function). In 1968, His good fellow and friend Lucio Fontana invited Alviani to exhibit together in the Biennale of Venice, showing the first “Space environment” (Ambianti Spaziali). The same year, Alviani was also invited to the Documenta 4, in Kassel, one of the most famous art events of that period of deep mutations in the art creation.

«» esagono © Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani

In the 1970s, Alviani focused again on colour, especially on gradual chromatic phenomenology, and on three-dimensional surfaces and structures generated by mathematical formulas. The mathematical foundation of his research, carried out with scientific methodology, became increasingly evident: each project was accompanied by a phenomenal and constructional technical text. Interested in teaching, from 1976 to 1981 he became the head of the painting section of the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara. This practice led to his interest for an ideal museum, not just as a collection of objects and historical documentation, but as a structure designed to educate and activate the visitor’s visual perception. From 1981 to 1985, he directed the Museum of Modern Art Fondacio Soto at Ciudad Bolivar, focusing on the movements of constructivist art. His work of reconstruction allowed this institution to become the first and unique museum in the world entirely dedicated to a structured visuality. Between the 1980s and 1990s, Aliviani participated also at many Venice Biennales, and among his several exhibitions he showed the traveling Light, Movement and Programming in different cities worldwide, including Milano Triennale, Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena, Buenos Aires Art Biennale and Rome Quadriennale. In the year 2000 began his collaboration with Museum Milana Dobesa, in Bratislava, where he curated the exhibitions for about a decade. In the last years, he has been almost exclusively interested in architectural projects, while carrying on a cultural activity by writing texts for various exhibitions.

Crossing the lines of the visual arts

A very innovative dimension of Alviani’s career as an artist was his ambition to cross all the boundaries of the academic art subjects and categories. After discovering the Tensione graphic series, Fashion designer Germana Marucelli proposed to Alviani a collaboration. The artist invented then a never seen “kinetic” pattern for a dress which image could change according to the movement of the eyes of the viewers. Alviani’s innovative fashion design was presented at the 29th Italian Fashion Event in Florence in January 1965. Matching the shape and the sign, Alviani creatd after another dress after the circle (the most perfect shape in nature according to him) and the square. The dresses called “Cerchio + Quadrato = Volume” and “Positivo-Negativo” were also exhibited at the MoMA New York in 1965, the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1991, and more recently, at the Prada Foundation in Venice in 2012. It is known to have influence significantly leading designers such as Paco Rabanne and Courrèges.

«1.2.3, 1.2.3, ..., » - cubo, Superficie a testura vibratile, ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

In the same idea to open the ways of creating art, the jewels created by Getulio Alviani also highlight the concept of free movement within space and light, as true wearable sculptures. It is remarkable to see how jewels such as “Cerchi Virtuali” and “Mono-Orecchini” continue to appear as radically innovative art objects. « I remember when I had the idea of making a dress made of a black square wool cloth wrapping the body and fixed on the breast by a large aluminum disk, Alviani explained in 1965 while promoting the collection with Germana Marucelli. Those were the years of achievable, concrete, physical, non-brainy ideas, where quality, portability and perceptive phenomenology had great importance and it was on these projects that I focused my interests. I wished be able to realize what looked right to me: vivacity or solemnity of a body, immobility or movement, sensuality or detachment, through a design, a color, with the mastery of means, techniques, and the good knowledge of materials. Things still valid today but very distant, perhaps because they are too subtle. Then the presentation of a dress was not an appearance but an emanation of a thought, a concept. Today, if I were asked to design fabrics and clothes, I’d either repeat those I’ve already made giving it the old date, or I’d design them in the most advanced way, as it used to be then, trying to see the future logically. Even fashion, like everything we do and produce, should always be the result of the union between the maximum knowledge of the “state of things” and the most advanced, progressive, and evolved idea. These components make objects right, letting them become the document of positive contemporaneity.” The highly eclectic career of Alviani as a proteiform artist has involved many different practices: from programmed and optical art to graphic design and architecture; from fashion to jewelry; from industrial design to art curating that the master considered also as a form of art it is. Alviani dresses and jewelry are known to have influence significantly the fashion of his time.

Rilievo speculare ad elementi curvi, Positivo negativo Artist proof, ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

The Responsive Eye : the never-ending debate about the borders of art

Having a retrospective analysis on the whole career of Getulio Alviani, one can say that a major step in the diffusion of Getulio Alviani’s work was the legendary exhibition at MoMA New York in 1965 titled The Responsive Eye. 1965 was an historic time that responded to high technological and socio-economic change, boosted by what the scientists call “the spring” of research and innovation. Mass culture at that time was carrying a similar fascination with topics related to new technologies and forms of the future as today. Curated by William C. Seitz, a senior scholar of the Abstract Expressionism movement, The Responsive Eye aimed to present a large panorama. of the experimentations of contemporary art around light and movement. The exhibition has been considered by Art historians as the “height of the Op Art wave”1, introducing this famous concept of Op Art to define those new forms of artworks. William Seitz had selected 102 artists from 19 countries, who all proposed new shapes of art demonstrating how the eye can respond to experiences with color, pattern or light, in time and space. The show was the first focus on the phenomenology of perception seen by contemporary artists. 123 works were shown in this gigantic exhibition, some by well-known artists such as Victor Vasarely or Josef Albers, and a lot from then little-known artists like Getulio Alviani. It was the first and a very opportune international platform in America for a whole generation of Kinetic artists such as Alviani.

Cerchi virtuali, ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

The leading modern art museum in the world at that time, New York MoMA was focusing then for the first time on the debate around the process and the experience of viewing an art object and how this interaction could be part of the art creation. It is a fact that Alviani’s works show us how the nervous system is involved in the art experience, by offering alternative ways of seeing. Nevertheless, one can say that all along the History of art, many artists have questioned the way of seeing. But in 1965 the artworks of Kinetic artists like Alviani presented in The Responsive Eye, appeared as revolutionary compared to the traditional art research on that subject. Many journalists questioned then this form of art as to whether this was truly art or rather a scientific exploration of the visual phenomenon. Curator Willian Seitz himself wrote that his show was in a way “beyond what we call ‘art’”, arguing with Josef Albers that “art is not object, but experience.” Getulio Alviani explained for instance at that time that he understood “light as a material; never as a metaphor of light.” The Responsive Eye got such a public success that the Television covered it through a special program called Eye on New York. The strong popularity of the exhibition paradoxically embarrassed some artists such as Getulio Alviani, scared by the entertaining dimension of the museum show which could possibly transforming it in a sort of spectacle. Writing later his memoirs of the exhibition, Getulio Alviani expressed this misunderstanding with the media success of the show: “In the fashionable windows of Fifth Avenue, he wrote, there were enlarged photographs of our work. Major magazines and newspapers published images of our most spectacular work - of our most famous artists! Success, success, success, for this phenomenon of a pure aesthetic plane, of surface. But it was all absolutely contrary to our prerogatives. This was the real tragedy - its consumption and its end: the misunderstanding of our ideology. Our artistic license was robbed, sacked. Everyone utilized our images and misused and contorted our research, vulgarizing everything and debasing its significance, taking away the vital energy that each one of us reflected in our research. As far as I am concerned, this research does not have to be conditioned by fashion or the market; rather, it has, and will certainly continue to have, an autonomous life, a life as long as that of sight and of vision. » Actually, the Responsive Eye happened to be finally for Alviani a very positive achievement, as the MoMA acquired some works of the artist after the show for their so prestigious collection.

« 1, 2, 3, 4 », « 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 », « 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 », « 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 », « 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 », « 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 » inscritto nel cerchio, ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

The present museum exhibition at ALIEN ART CENTRE aims to be a new way to offer a more artistic and academic vision of Alviani’s work. Nevertheless, the link with the fashion world and public influence remains a significant part of Alviani’s innovative art practice, collaborating early with fashion designers, and opening his talent to the design field. One can understand why a large public media cover could embarrass at some point a young and radical artist such as Alviani was in 1965. But at the same time, this recognition of the fashion world participated in diffusing deeply his legacy in the shapes and forms of the modern world. In fact, today we can see finally how the innovative practices of these artists such as Getulio Alviani contributed to significantly expand the artistic freedom. This kind of art research Alviani developed has prepared a solid ground for the most contemporary artistic practices, until today’s Generative and interactive developments in the digital art movement. The idea to revise the timing between production and presentation, in making the audience actively participating to the visual experiment of the artworks was clearly visionary, and certainly supported to make contemporary art more visible and more accessible to a modern audience.

Responsive Vision: Getulio Alviani

Period|2023/12/02 ~ 2024/10/27
Artist|Getulio Alviani
Curators|Yaman Shao、Diora Fraglica Alviani、Jerome Neutres、Richard Chang
Academics Collaboration|Felix Kwok, Sotheby's、T.N Liu, CANS Publisher Group
Curatorial Team|ALIEN Art、ALIEN Art Centre
Museum Collaboration|Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani
Special thanks to|YUIMOM Group、SS Bar、Bon Masion

Yaman Shao|Responsive Vision: Getulio Alviani
Diora Fraglica Alviani| Getulio Alviani: extraordinary as a guide in life and art
Jérôme Neutres|Getulio Alviani: In search of a responsive vision
Richard Chang|Responsive Vision: Getulio Alviani

Alviani-foto-profilo © Centro Studi e Ricerche Getulio Alviani