Private Collection, Milan
Galleria Il Mappamondo, Milan
Galleria Marescalchi, Bologna
Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner in the late 1990s
Thence by descent to the present owner
Enrico Crispolti, Fontana Catalogo Generale, Vol. II, Milan 1986, p. 577, no. 65 T 93, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 763, no. 65 T 93, illustrated
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 vigour of the cuts appears in a calmingly pristine no-mans-land, unhinged from conventions of time and space. The choice of white is by no means an eschewal of colour, for in his earlier works Fontana used a plain unpainted canvas ground. Indeed, Fontana explained that he chose white because it is the “purest, least complicated, most understandable colour," 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. Indeed, the present work was created four years after Yuri Gagarin journeyed into space and four 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.
Fontana explained that "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 quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, 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 each cut.
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