- Lucio Fontana
- Concetto Spaziale, Attese
- signed, titled, and numbered 1+1-976T on the reverse
- waterpaint on canvas
- 28 7/8 by 39 1/2 in. 73.3 by 100.3 cm.
- Executed in 1960.
André Bernheim, Paris
Private Collection, Turin
Christie's, London, June 21, 2007, Lot 247
Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011
Madrid, Galeria Theo, Fontana. Obras 1960-1968, October - November 1987, n.p., no. 9, illustrated in color
Zurich, de Pury & Luxembourg, Lucio Fontana, October - December 2002, n.p., no. 10, illustrated in color (in installation, three times)
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lucio Fontana Ambienti Spaziali: Architecture, Art, Environments, May - June 2012, p. 271, no. 297, illustrated in color
Diario 16, Madrid, October 31, 1987, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan, 2006, p. 504, no. 60 T 132, illustrated
As 1958 was coming to a close, and twentieth-century art history was caught in a holding pattern between looking back at the great heroes of Abstract Expressionism and forecasting the revolutionary aesthetic effects of the technicolor 60s, Lucio Fontana took his Stanley knife to the surface of a pristinely painted and defiantly monochromatic canvas for the first time. As his blade travelled down the still face of the picture plane, ineluctably rupturing its tranquility in pursuit of a new frontier of painterly process, Fontana achieved immediate notoriety for what would become the most radical and categorically groundbreaking artistic gesture of recent art history. The resulting series of works, his Tagli, are among the most iconic and instantly recognizable canvases executed throughout the entirety of his prodigious career, and the present Concetto Spaziale, Attese is perfectly demonstrative of the most celebrated aspects of this universally venerated corpus.
Across four sublimely elegant tagli, each originating in an exquisitely fine point before gradually and smoothly broadening toward the center to create a sensation of profound depth and eternal emptiness, Fontana’s blade here moved with a grace that encapsulates elegance, simplicity, and vitality within each deliberate cut. Disclosing a space beyond the two dimensional picture plane formed the total basis of Fontana’s artistic intent. Specifically, it was humankind’s exploration into space that would transform his practice: tangibility of the universe and scientific discovery of infinity was the catalyst for extending the scope of his sculptural/painterly experimentation. Fontana’s Tagli offered an innovative interpretation of the artist’s gesture that moved it from the surface toward penetrating the canvas, and hence opened up an entirely new spatial dimension in his work. In the present work, Fontana’s preoccupation with extraterrestrial frontiers unexplored seems particularly significant: each penetration of the jet black surface of Concetto Spaziale, Attese reads as an attempt at slicing through the farthest reaches of the cosmos itself. Indeed, at the very same moment Fontana began his Tagli, news stories of the 'space race' captivated audiences all over the world. This global fascination was arguably at its most potent in 1960, when the artist executed the present work, and when human history was a mere year away from putting a man in space for the first time. As Sarah Whitfield noted: “The famous hole and cut were not just gashes punched through a canvas, but a way of making the viewer look beyond the physical fact of the painting, to what Fontana called ‘a free space’. This is as much a philosophical concept as a visual one, for as Fontana told Tommaso Trini shortly before his death: ‘art is only thought in evolution.’ The space created by the hole or the slash stands for the idea of a space without physical boundaries.” (Sarah Whitfield, Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 14)
Fontana embarked on the Tagli in response to the developments in contemporary art in Italy during 1957-58, particularly Yves Klein’s first exhibition of monochrome paintings in Milan in 1957, Jackson Pollock’s retrospective in Rome in 1958, and the predominant rise of Art Informel. In response to the contemporary turn toward action painting at this time, Fontana’s cuts evoked this pervasive gestural performance while seeking the realization of a more metaphysical presence. Fontana combined the highly saturated monochromatic purity of Klein’s canvases with Pollock’s violently physical action. Moreover, drawing attention to the materiality of the picture-plane, Fontana’s cuts question classical interpretations of a ‘figure-ground’ relationship; rather than striving toward an illusion of perspectival depth, Fontana’s punctures create forms within the canvas that embody a real third dimension of space. The total darkness of this stunning painting only serves to further amplify the profound obsidian of the plunging recesses that punctuate its surface and, as such, stands as a quintessential archetype of Fontana’s quest for "the Infinite, the inconceivable chaos, the end of figuration, nothingness." (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 198)