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Details & Cataloguing

The Italian Sale

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London

Lucio Fontana
1899 - 1968
CONCETTO SPAZIALE, ATTESE
signed, titled and inscribed 1 + 1 – 738 A (e impronta digitale dell’autore) on the reverse
waterpaint on canvas
61 by 50 cm. 24 by 19 7/8 in.
Executed in 1960.
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Provenance

Collection Agenore Fabbri, Milan

Sale: Sotheby’s Milan, 23 November 1999, Lot 234

Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above sale)

Thence by descent to the present owner

Literature

Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 97, no. 60 T 71, illustrated (incorrect orientation)

Enrico Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 325, no. 60 T 71, illustrated

Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 495, no. 60 T 71, illustrated

Catalogue Note

With three lyrical incisions across a blazing red surface, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a striking example of one of the most radical and instantly recognisable series of the post-war period, Lucio Fontana’s iconic tagli. Fontana embarked on his own spatial journey when he conceived the first of his ground-breaking tagli in 1958. In the ensuing decade, Fontana would tirelessly advance and refine his technique, commenting that “with the slash I invited a formula that I don’t think I can perfect. I managed with this formula to give the spectator an impression of spatial calm, of cosmic rigour, of serenity in infinity” (Lucio Fontana quoted in: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol I, Milan 2006, p. 105). As a manifestation of Fontana’s radical Spatialist projection, one large central cut ruptures the opulent surface of the present work, complemented by two smaller, almost identical incisions, set slightly apart from the first. The arrangement of cuts alludes to the ontological potency of each individual incision, suffusing the work with a sense of movement that evokes the physical and performative aspect of slashing the canvas. The chromatic power of red is not only charged with symbolic drama but is contrasted by the deep black telletta (the strips of black gauze positioned behind each cut). Fusing seductive chromatic power with the preoccupation at the core of Spatialism, the infinity of space, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a true feat of this legendary corpus.

The vigorous black cuts incised into the deep crimson surface of the present work elicit a tenably visceral reading that is steeped in the vernacular of western art history. The ineluctable smoothness of the pulsating red pigment saturates the canvas like blood seeping from an open wound. Concetto Spaziale, Attese is thus a wounded canvas that in turn represents a Modernist echo of the wounds of Christ on the cross. Significantly, much like the art of the past in its deliverance of the message of salvation, in Fontana’s work, it is only by enacting violence upon an unblemished surface and sacrificing the possibility of representational illusion that an intimation of an unknown realm can be attained. Herein, it is his idiosyncratic gesture – the iconoclastic cut – that continues a legacy, which has shaped the development of Western art history: the Christian notion of transfiguration through violence and suffering.

Fontana’s work, and particularly his series of tagli, was closely linked with contemporaneous advances in space travel. Just as men like Yuri Gagarin broke through the atmosphere to reveal the infinite void of the cosmos, Fontana sliced open his canvas to reveal the void behind it and irrevocably changed the course of art. To this end, the telletta are as central to the interpretation of this work as the narrow slits themselves. They imply the blackness of space and the insurmountable nothingness of the cosmological void. In Fontana’s own words: “The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension. It is the infinite: thus I pierce this canvas, which is the basis of all arts and I have created an infinite dimension, an x which for me is the basis for all Contemporary Art” (Lucio Fontana cited in: Exh. Cat., Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19). Through this paradigm-shifting series, Fontana asserts his own identity as a pioneer of painting and a founding father of contemporary art, perfectly positioned to lead the practice onwards into the second half of the Twentieth Century.

With a powerful visceral and chromatic drama, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a compelling proof of this artist's unmatched and ambitious contribution to the philosophical landscape of the post-war era and a work of crucial art historical importance.

The Italian Sale

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London