It is in this striking contrast between the white of the surface and the darkness of the void, that the Tagli reach the height of their expression; the aggressive vigor of the single cut appears in a calmingly pristine no-mans-land, unhinged from conventions of time and space. Indeed, Fontana explained that he chose white because it is the “purest, least complicated, most understandable color," that which most immediately struck the note of "pure simplicity," "pure philosophy," "spatial philosophy," and "cosmic philosophy" to which Fontana more than ever aspired during the last years of his life. (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures et Environments Spatiaux, Vol. I, Brussels 1974, p. 137) This is perhaps why Fontana chose to use only this combination of white ground and black slash in his installation for the XXXIII Venice Biennale in 1966, for which he won the Grand Prize for painting. Furthermore, it was the extra-dimensionality of these white Tagli that Yves Klein whole-heartedly embraced in his exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in April 1958. Resonating with Fontana's minimalist language, Klein created an evacuated space, perfectly white in homage to the void.
The deliberate and contemplative use of white has significant connotations beyond its calming purity of spatial dialogue. As Fontana declared in his Manifesto Blanco (White Manifesto) in 1946 and his five formative Spatialist Manifiestos – created between 1946 and 1952 – that art should embrace science and technology. By the 1960s, Fontana’s practice of breaking through the canvas and into a heretofore unexplored territory had gained newfound relevance alongside ground-breaking concurrent advances in space travel. The ‘Space Race’ had established the moon as the next frontier for human exploration and dominated the global political zeitgeist. Indeed, the present work was created six years after Yuri Gagarin journeyed into space and two years before Neil Armstrong would first set foot on the moon. Therefore, this whiteness is emblematic of the synthetic, smoothed surfaces indicative of such new technologies, which were quite literally transporting humans into an infinite and weightless space. To this end, the telleta (the strip of black gauze positioned behind the cut) is also as central to an interpretation of this work as the narrow incision itself. It implies the blackness of space and the insurmountable nothingness of the cosmological void.
Fontana was explicit with regard to his emulation of the cosmic explorations of his era, and confident in the implication that his actions had for the aesthetic realm: "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 (and travelling), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19) At a time when space travel was looking less like science fiction and more like a tangible reality, the present work finds a means to enter the realm of the immaterial; not so much to define space as to re-define it, to open it up to a boundless array of possibilities. This work has the effect of marking an event, as it crosses the frontier towards a blinding conceptual and aesthetic point of no return: it collapses past, present and future within the slender abyss of a single cut.
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