This exhibition of nearly 20 works from the museum's collection follows Italian contributions to the transnational evolution of abstraction, through movements and tendencies such as futurism, spatialism, op art and kinetic art.
The exhibition includes several works that have been exhibited only rarely or not at all since entering the collection. Among those that have not been on view since the Hirshhorn's inaugural exhibition in 1974-1975 are works by Zero group founder Heinz Mack, French op artist Yvaral and Italian painter Carlo Battaglia and several works by Italian artist Enrico Castellani.
A pivotal figure in the exhibition is Lucio Fontana, who was born in Argentina to Italian parents and divided his career between the two countries. He is best known for spatialist paintings in which the integrity of the picture plane is violated by slashes or holes. Three of these "Spatial Concepts" from 1967 are on view. These works inspired a generation of Italian artists that included Giò Pomodoro, whose towering fiberglass relief "Opposition" (1968) is marked with bulges and indentations, and Castellani, whose monochrome paintings have taut and pristine surfaces punctuated by nailheads.
From the vantage point of the mid-century, the exhibition looks back to the work of Italian futurists such as Giacomo Balla, whose "Sculptural Construction of Noise and Speed" (1914-1915)/(reconstructed 1968) attempted to capture the dynamism of the machine age in material form. And it looks forward in time to the exploration of immateriality by artists associated with Arte Povera, such as Giovanni Anselmo, whose "Invisible" (1971) is a slide projection that shoots the Italian word "visibile" (visible, evident, apparent) into space, so that it comes into view only when a visitor steps in front of it and becomes the screen.