Fontana’s intuition of a limitless and infinite spatiality was already formulated in the artist’s early opposition to the classicism of the Novocento Italiano movement in the beginning of the 1930s. Herein, the artist argued in favour of shifting away from a consideration of the present in relation to the past and instead championed a new perspective that focused on the present in relation to the future. Following on from Enrico Prampolini’s cosmic idealism, the wish to turn towards the future stemmed also from his genuine interest in the technology of the day. Fontana was well aware of the possibilities offered by science and shared the desire of many of his contemporaries to live through the technological breakthrough of man’s first excursion into outer space. Partly inspired by this, Fontana began his first series of canvases with holes (buchi) just before 1950. Two years later, the artist began working on another series where the holes were combined with fragments of coloured glass stuck to the canvas’ surface (Le Pietre). In 1954, Fontana started a series of chalky pastel and ink works (gessi and inchiostri), whose particularly dramatic form evoked the texture of the moon’s surface. Examples from the above series’ appeared in the well-received solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale in the summer of 1958, which not only put Fontana on the international radar but also allowed the artist to look retrospectively at his achievements and focus on his next works.
It was in this pivotal and dynamic period that Fontana began working on the series entitled Concetto Spaziale, Forma. The canvases featured a central abstract form executed in warm, earthy tones; an organic form that intermingled with a surrounding composition of holes. These holes furthered the effect of glass from his earlier series of Pietre to evoke beautifully arranged constellations. The present Concetto Spaziale, Forma must then be considered as an interpretative and open translation of space, whereby the viewer experiences the aura of weightless materiality and its trajectory. Placed around the central organic shape, the punctures forcefully breach the canvas’s integrity and open its surface up to a multi-dimensional play of light and colour. Thus, the canvas acquires a completely new, three-dimensional quality that gives way to limitless spatial possibilities and alludes to a cosmic understanding of nature. While the ruptures serve as a way to invite spatial movement into the canvas, the floating, organic line of the dark form acts as a stimulus towards an awareness of the present moment. This duality leaves the viewer “alone in the face of everything, curious about everything, on the edge of everything” (Enrico Crispolti, Ed., Fontana, Milan 1999, p. 14).
During the summers of 1959 and 1960, Fontana once again took up working in three dimensions when he began working in the city of Albisola on a series titled Concetto Spaziale, Natura. Together with Concetto Spaziale, Forma, these sculptures uniquely demonstrate Fontana’s fundamental conceptual break in the relationship between human action and spatial fluidity: from the sphere of experience to the spatial infinity of the stars. Concetto Spaziale, Forma can then be seen as a work that marks the beginning of the triumphant and final decade of the artist’s career. This painting showcases Fontana’s critical perforation of the canvas to symbolically induce a further spatial dimension. Indeed, within the oeuvre of Fontana, space is no longer an earthly or purely tangible entity, but rather constitutes a cosmic illusion.
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