- Lucio Fontana
- Concetto Spaziale
- signed, titled, dated 1957 and dedicated A Ugo on the reverse
- pastel and canvas collage on canvas
- 100 by 70 cm. 39 3/8 by 27 1/2 in.
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Lucio Fontana, April – June 1998, p. 210, no. 3/P/29, illustrated in colour
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 357, no. 57 G 47, illustrated
I believe that Fontana’s unique intention, which made him one of the most important artists of our age, consisted of his discovery of anonymity, an immediacy that emerges from every scheme, any cultural bracket, refusing to add a small piece to the big mosaic of culture from the beginning of time to the present day.”
Ugo Mulas in: Conversazioni con Ugo Mulas a cura di A. C. Quintavalle, Milan 1973, p. 27
Executed in 1957, Concetto Spaziale is from Lucio Fontana's revered Gessi series, produced between 1954 and 1958. Named after their most prevalent material, they were created using a gypsum-based ground layer, giving the canvas a seemingly rugged texture. The artist’s output of Gessi reached its peak in 1957, with Fontana creating fifty-six works that varied in size, composition and subject matter. He simultaneously worked on his series of Buchi, Pietre, Barocchi, Inchiostri, Carte and Olii, marking these years some of the most fruitful of his career. His studio, as Pia Gottschaller aptly described, “might be seen as a kind of laboratory in which many ideas germinated and grew out of one another at the same time” (Pia Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist's Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 49).
After the exuberantly bright and textured Barocchi, Fontana explored a more subdued spatiality, reducing his compositions to stylised linear shapes, and his palette to darker, sombre tones. His Gessi epitomise this shift, representing some of the most brooding works in Fontana’s œuvre. With its golden silhouette surfacing from a tenebrous background of swirling, rapid circles – overlapping in certain areas so much as to become monochromatic pools of darkness – Concetto Spaziale evokes a fossilised butterfly, surfacing from a dark, cosmic void. In this manner, the artist sets a particularly dramatic and primeval tone to his Concetto.
Despite its restrained palette, the composition is far from static – with the whirling motion of the dark chalk strokes, Fontana lifts his butterfly towards the onlooker. The leap outside the picture plane is further emphasised by the ordered lines of holes that, in their interlocking, mimic the central shape. The pastel is laid with agitated but forceful gestures – reminiscent of the Informel vocabulary – and betrays a “nervous desire to leave an immediate, direct trace without any subsequent reworking or refinement” (Pia Gottschaller, Ibid., p. 49). Concetto Spaziale is a striking example of the artist’s preoccupation with the third and fourth dimensions, showcasing his ability to extend the boundaries of the picture’s bi-dimensionality and open the canvas to space and time.
The artist dedicated the work to his friend and acclaimed photographer Ugo Mulas, whom he met in Milan in the 1950s. Frequenting the same literary and artistic circles that centered around the historic Bar Jamaica, he was one of Mulas’s favourite subjects. The photographer regularly visited Fontana’s studio, as it provided a constant source of inspiration. Arriving without a tripod or lights, Mulas would photograph in quick succession, capturing Fontana while he punctured, fractured and slashed and immortalising his creative genius in all its spontaneity.