Fontana is the first case of a modern European artist…to effectively define himself in Latin America and to be marked by the cultural progress of this region (1). In the mid 1940’s Fontana co-founded Academia Altamira and during the war years, participated in the vibrant artistic life in Buenos Aires. By 1946 he sponsored the Manifiesto Blanco. It reads in part:
“The artistic era of colours and paralyzed forms is reaching the end…/.. The old still images do not satisfy the appetite of the new man…we will abandon the practice and all known forms of art and we embark into the development of an art based on the unity of time and space.”
The manifesto ends: “We conceive synthesis as a sum of physical elements: color, sound, movement, time, space, integrating a psychic physical unit. Color, the element of space, sound, the time element, and the movement that develops in time and space, are the fundamental forms of a new art, which contains the four dimensions of existence. Time and space.” (1)
Before his return to Milan, Fontana witnessed the development of the Madi movement and had befriended its leaders and contemporaries: Kosice, Arden Quin, Hlito, Iommi and Maldonado. In 1947, Fontana brought back to [a defeated and ruined] Italy the vitality of Argentinian artistic 1940’s experiments. As curator Paulo Herkenhoof reminds us: “He seems to have transferred the experimental intensity that he witnessed in America, to the post-war European environment” (2)
The discovery of the universe gives us a new dimension, it represents infinity; thus I make a whole on this canvas which--until this moment--has always been the main surface for the art I have produced, creating an infinite dimension, an “X” which stands as the base for…all of contemporary art and for those who really want to comprehend it. (3)
Executed in 1965 at the peak of his career, Concetto Spaziale belongs to the series of “oils” that the artist dedicated himself to between 1960 and 1968 while concurrently developing the Venezia series, executed in 1961, and the subsequent series of Fine di Dio executed between 1963 and 1964.
"In this new phase Fontana renovates his technique adding to the process of scratching and puncturing holes over the surface by manipulating paint. The thick impasto created by oil paint on the surface of Concetto Spaziale is sculpted by the artist’s own hands. Likewise, every hole and rip are made wider by his direct intervention on the wet paint. The free graffiti indicates a new cosmic iconography that clearly engulfs a spatial entity further encompassing an enlarged hole. Subsequently, an act of violent appropriation of raw paint matter takes place establishing, along with the cosmic image of the graffiti, a sort of sensual and carnal relationship." (4)
After Yuri Gagarin’s travel into space in April 1961, the discovery of the universe became a reality which accentuated the sublime; the loneliness and distress experienced by our human condition as we confront the vastness of the universe. In an interview dated 1962, Fontana commented that his rips “represent the pain felt by human beings next to the vastness of space. The pain a spaceman feels being squeezed and compressed by those instruments pressed against his skin, a different kind of pain. A man who travels into space is a new kind of human being, his perceptions are new and mainly painful." (5)
Concetto Spaziale emerges into a three dimensional confluence between matter and shape, paint and sculpture. The oil paint becomes a sculpted material sensually elaborated and defined by the artist’s hands around the hole’s outer border. The relationship between emptiness and fullness, the tangible and the abstract are enhanced by Fontana's notion of conceptual aesthetics: founded on the creation, destruction and manipulation of matter.
1. Manifesto Blanco, 1946, Buenos Aires
2. Paulo Herkenhoff, Lucio Fontana Brazil, New York, 2002
3. Lucio Fontana interviewed by Carla Lonzi in Autoritratto, Milan, 2010, p. 126
4. Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan, 2006, p. 74
5. Lucio Fontana, Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1998, p. 244
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