Wuppertal, Kunst- und Museumsverein, Hommage à Fontana, September - November 1969, n.p., no. 14 (text)
Wuppertal, Kunst- und Museumsverein, Die 50er Jahre - Aspekte und Tendenzen, September - November 1977, n.p., no. 50, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Fontana: Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 285, no. 59 T 44, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 451, no. 59 T 44, illustrated
Fontana, who trained and worked most of his life as a sculptor, developed his concept of ‘Spatialism’ as a direct response to the nuclear age of the 1940s and 50s, and the subsequent exploration of space travel. Fontana believed that the world was on the verge of a seismic shift in how art could be understood; instead of viewing art as a verisimilar expression or depiction of the natural world, Fontana looked to the new scientific fields of particle physics – a theoretical means of understanding the world as an elemental combination of time, matter, energy and space – for artistic inspiration.
Fontana was one of the first modern artists to fully appreciate this way of thinking. He slashed, punched, and burned his artworks to transcend the boundaries of the two dimensional. By cutting through the canvas’ surface, Fontana tore away at illusion and destroyed the canvas as a barer of illustrative depiction. The cuts transformed the canvas into a three dimensional object; the cavernous voids delicately reveal the infinity of space that lies within. This implication of an unknown dimension beyond the two-dimensional surface and the associated transcendental power of painting recalls the work of Fontana’s American contemporary Mark Rothko, whose artistic approach echoes that of the Italian artist in its cosmic spirituality. However, Fontana had always struggled against the positivity of art as a singular object arguing that “sculpture and painting are both things of the past, we need a new form. Art that’s movement. Art within space” (Lucio Fontana, cited in: Hedy. A. Giusti, 'But Nobody Mentions Milan Art', Rome Daily American, 9 July 1954, in Anthony White, 'Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch', Grey Room, No. 5, Autumn 2001, p. 56).
Even though Fontana’s medium was in fact paint on canvas, there is a strong element of performance in his work. Breaking into the canvas by slicing through the periphery with his knife, the finished work was no longer an organic vision of wholeness but instead an unmistakable document of process, a recital of actions whose emotions can be felt emanating from the scars on the canvas. The transformative act of slicing fixes the cut to a specific point and place in time, the action itself becoming the focal element of the work.
The beauty of Concetto Spaziale, Attese, and indeed every other tagli in Fontana’s series, lies in its steady, immaculate and quasi-mechanical repetition. The automated labour of precise cuts disavows gesture and personal expression similar to the anonymity of a factory machine. Art critic and writer Antonella Negri has commented that “the cuts do not embody the manual effort and know-how of traditional craft skills; rather, they appear to be able to be executed in little time and by everybody” (Antonella Negri quoted in: Anthony White, Lucio Fontana, Between Utopia and Kitsch, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2001, p. 235). This mechanical emphasis runs parallel to the screen printing technique taken up by Andy Warhol in the 1960s. However, where Warhol took advantage of developing commercial technologies that were increasingly saturating mass culture, Fontana’s rejection of expressivity and favouring of immaculate pseudo-mechanic gesture conferred a philosophical gateway to objective universality.
With the Concetto Spaziali Fontana dissected the very concept of painting and undermined forever the flat picture plane. The incredibly striking composition of the present work, the five, crisp cuts running through this seductive green canvas, succeeds in keeping a series of conceptual tensions in parallel. Simultaneously looking forwards and backwards in time, the present work also impels us to look outwards, towards the abyss of space, and inwards, within ourselves. It is a prime example of the manner in which Lucio Fontana was able to instigate a paradigm shift in post-war art, galvanising the discourse to keep up with concurrent progressions in space travel and science theory. It is works of this nature and of this exceptional quality that have installed Fontana’s oeuvre at the forefront of post-war art history.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale