Galleria Morone, Milan
V. Ponti, Varese
Galleria Seno, Milan
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1979-80
Milan, Galleria d'Arte Medea, L'Avventura Spaziale di Lucio Fontana, 1974, p. 16, illustrated in colour
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 368, no. 61 O 37, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti e Ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan 2006, p. 552, no. 61 O 37, illustrated
Fontana reserved his use of gold for only the most important occasions. Laden as it is with traditional symbolism, the deep and pearlescent warmth of gold in Concetto Spaziale conjures treasured Venetian masterpieces, from the winged golden lion of St Mark, the city’s Patron, to the dazzling, gilded mosaic interior of St Mark's Basilica. Its celestial glow evokes the visually commanding and spiritually enriching properties of Italian devotional art. Known for their use of precious gold leaf to symbolise and pay tribute to divine presence, this venerative history established the iconographic centrality of gold pigment. Fontana's contemporaries, notably Yves Klein, congruently explored the transcendent qualities of gold. Klein’s first Monogold dates from 1959, and in the early 1960s Lucio Fontana purchased MG 42 for his personal collection. Three years after creating the present work, Fontana inscribed an Olio from 1964 with the message l'Oro è bello come il Sole! – “Gold is as beautiful as the sun!” Traditionally the most opulent and precious of metals, and believed across cultures to symbolise the powers of the sun, Fontana was utterly captivated by this material’s potential.
Bearing reference to the ornamental programmes of Baroque and Byzantine aesthetics the luscious gold surface of Concetto Spaziale is an engrossing visual experience. The landscape of paint that confronts the viewer appears molten like a pool of liquid gold; burnished like an ingot wrestled from the earth's crust; and unearthly like a smoothly incinerated meteorite. To achieve this faceted texture Fontana smothered the canvas in lavish layers of thick paint using his hands and a palette knife. His actions are retold by three-dimensional shadows fixed as recesses, ridges and circular ruptures. The decorative scrolls have been channelled by finger tips, the downward pressure pushing up burred edges like furrows ploughed in wet soil. In order to facilitate this extravagant working method it had been necessary for Fontana to develop new materials as the viscosity of conventional oil paint caused thick areas to sag and change shape during the lengthy drying period. As proved by Barbara Ferriani and others, between 1960 and 1961 Fontana started to add a stearic-acrylic resin to oil paint as a hardener to achieve the unique impasto, which he could manipulate further during its faster drying time (Barbara Ferriani quoted in: ibid., p. 222). In Concetto Spaziale the three-dimensionality of the pigment is enhanced by a single shimmering ruby-coloured pietre, which adorns Fontana’s iconic central slash.
Painted the same year that Yuri Gagarin pioneered Man’s ascent into space, Concetto Spaziale parallels an era of momentous achievement in human history. Gagarin’s galactic ascent affirmed the overwhelming concept of spatial infinity and provided the ultimate metaphor for humankind's existentialist isolation in the void. Fontana's contemporaneous work takes this existential idea beyond its representation to its actual manifestation, as described by Crispolti: "Fontana, in fact, replaced the issue of the perception of reality with that of the conception of reality... considered as substantially dynamic, fluid, relative and infinite" (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Tomo I, Milan 2006, pp. 11-13).
Concetto Spaziale thus conjures astral incandescence via the gleaming reflections of its aurous metallic surface and the shimmering facets of light reflected off its opulent red pietre. As the controlled central slash acts as a window of epiphany through the heavy deposits of golden paint into the 'infinite space of the void' beyond, the work is a gleaming epitome of Fontana’s ground-breaking artistic quest.
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