Sale: Sotheby’s Milan, 23 November 1999, Lot 234
Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above sale)
Thence by descent to the present owner
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
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.
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