Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above in circa 1970)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 364, no. 61 O 15, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 548, no. 61 O 15, illustrated
Concetto Spaziale is a visually alluring representation of Fontana’s sumptuously crafted Olii. The oval form is firmly incised into the thick surface and provides an evocative frame for the circular holes and stones. Fontana’s use of glass fragments, which play a prominent part in the Venezie, can be seen as a modern-day equivalent of the jewels that were used to ornament the mosaics of the Basilica San Marco. The downward direction of the holes and stones in the present work suggest the vertical form of Fontana’s revolutionary cuts, which he introduced a few years earlier in 1958. All of these symbolic, almost metaphorical elements are underlined by the cosmic tonality of the luminous silver ground. Fontana had already employed the silver colour briefly, and to great effect, in some of the early buchi of 1951. In its colourful intensity and cosmic invocations, Concetto Spaziale recalls the work of Jackson Pollock, who had brushed and dripped aluminium paint onto his works as early as 1947. Just like Fontana, Pollock was inspired by the night sky to contemplate the unreachable galaxies of the outer corner of space and reconsider his own conception of artistic space.
Grasping the full extent of Fontana’s Spazialismo is to understand the revolutionary developments in science and technology. The same year that Fontana created Concetto Spaziale, Major Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space when he orbited the earth in the Soviet spaceship Vostok in 1 hour and 48 minutes. His galactic journey proved that human existence is not limited to the earth but extends into stratospheric dimensions of spatial infinity. Deeply impacted and inspired by this technological revolution that redefined humanity's perception of the universe, Fontana embarked on an artistic practice that would itself revolutionise the painterly medium. With all of its surface ornamentations and irregularities, the present work invokes spatial dimensions reminiscent of the scars on the moon left by the countless impacts of meteorites. Even though the first images of the far side of the lunar surface showing its mass of crates were only sent in July 1964, the present work already seems to incorporate the cosmic landscape displayed in these photographs. Indeed, the time lapse between the aesthetic manifestation in Fontana’s art and the actual scientific proof in form of photographs echoes the artist’s claim made in his Manifiesto Spaziale of 1947 that “artists anticipate scientific deeds” (Lucio Fontana, ‘Manifiesto Spaziale’, in: Exhibition Catalogue, Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizione, Lucio Fontana, 1998, p. 118). Fontana’s fascination with science and in particular space travel might well have derived from the similar approaches taken in art and science, namely the idea of extending human knowledge beyond preconceived limits in order to explore the unknown space behind the surface of common norms.
Combining the circular image of fertility that represents the symbolism of ancient civilisations with the futuristic notion of cosmic infinity, the present work creates a space where the most distant polarities meet. Concetto Spaziale is a culmination of Fontana’s artistic sensibility and unites his admiration for the Baroque with a capacity to revel in rich textures, sparkly surface effects, and free forms to convey the spatial dimensions of painting.
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