Aldo Tambellini: Black Matters

Black cover with white font and circular illustration.
Type of publication
Exhibition brochure
Publishing house, place
ZKM⎪Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Karlsruhe

As a key figure in the 1960s underground scene of New York – a missing link between the European avant-garde and the artistic movements that followed Abstract Expressionism – Aldo Tambellini (born 1930 in Syracuse, NY, US) is an experimenter, agitator, and a major catalyst of innovation in the field of multimedia art. Tambellini took the transformational potential of artistic expression that stems from painting and sculpture and brought it to the experiences of Expanded Cinema.

After his early experiments with color in the 1950s, the artist embraced BLACK as an artistic, philosophical, social, and political commitment, and started to use mainly this color in his works. The American Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for racial equality, the Vietnam War, and the space-age were influences on his visionary oeuvre, unique in that it demonstrates the fragile balance between an artist’s absorption of the stimuli provided by contemporary new technologies and the social and political environment of his time. Attracted above all by the energetic nature of painting, Tambellini transferred a meticulous expression of the language and power of gesture – first onto slides, and later onto film frames and video. Over the course of the 1960s he created his Black Project from which emerged: the »Black Film Series«, 16 mm films focused on philosophical and social facets of black; the »Black Performances«, multimedia performances he called “Electromedia” which are based on his theories of the integration of the arts; the »Black Video Series« and »Black TV«, which took his mode of experimentation further into video and television technologies.

The body of work presented at ZKM | Karlsruhe in this first major solo exhibition of Tambellini, is conceived as a manifesto for an organic connection between painting, sculpture, photography, moving images, poetry, and performance. His vision encompasses the full implications of contemporary media, seizing upon their potential as linguistic and artistic tools. »Black Matters«, for which the ZKM | Laboratory for Antiquated Video Systems digitized the entire video archive of the artist, is a journey through Aldo Tambellini’s most prolific, highly charged, and diversified period from 1960 to 1980. The exhibition presents a selection of paintings rarely seen before from his New York period, as well as films and videos which marked the artist’s sucess in the 1960s and 1970s. Another section is devoted to the experiments and projects conducted by Tambellini’s Communicationsphere at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) and a selection of his most recent multimedia works that were shown at Centre Pompidou in Paris (2012), Tate Modern in London (2012), MoMA in New York (2013), and the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).

Concluding this journey through the development of this artistic life in these crucial decades is a site-specific installation especially commissioned for this retrospective. This new multimedia work, once again after sixty years, presents Tambellini’s artistic investigations, philosophical underpinning, and his political belief that “Black Matters”, now more than ever.

Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi

32 pp., ill., brochure
Organization / Institution
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe



Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg ; Stadt Karlsruhe


Editorial team: Philipp Ziegler, Hanna Jurisch

Graphic design: 2xGoldstein+Fronczek