Alive and working during the historical and era-defining age of space exploration, Fontana was deeply inspired by humankind’s evolving and expanding perception of the cosmos. In boldly rupturing the picture plane in his Tagli paintings, he sought to express a seminal redefinition of the concept of space within art. Having advanced his intellectual theory of Spatialism over five formative manifestos, the artist forged a path toward radical advancements in artistic ideology that sought to engage technology and find expression for a fourth dimension: space-time. Fontana first embarked upon his Tagli in the autumn of 1958 and developed the motif by bathing his canvases in an extensive palette of hues that ranged from blazing reds, oranges and pinks, through more muted white and grey tones, to shimmering baroque golds, silvers, and, as evidenced in the present work, vivid blues. Harnessing this array of pigment, Fontana further diversified his practice by experimenting with different sequences and quantities of slashes. The crisp incisions in Concetto spaziale, Attese are imbued with the artist’s unbridled enthusiasm for space as ineffable and infinite yet brimming with the promise of uncharted and boundless adventure – the ultimate realisation of his groundbreaking concept of Spatialism. As outlined by the artist: "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 cited in: Exh. Cat., Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19).
To create the Tagli, Fontana used a Stanley knife to cleanly cut, in a singular descending gesture, through his still-damp canvases. He would subsequently insert his fingers in each perforation to widen the slits, encouraging each band of freshly incised canvas to curl inwards. Finally, the artist would apply black gauze to the reverse of his ruptured canvas in order to accentuate an impression of endless depth. The illusion of the vast profundity of these cuts rouses the viewer’s senses, for the softly undulating edges of the incised canvas exude a certain sensual tactility. In the present work, the azure, celestial blue of the hand-painted surface amplifies the painting’s innate organicism: its vividness and intensity invoke the great expanse of the sky above. In its conceptual rigour, the work is reminiscent of Fontana’s iconic aerial sculpture from 1951, Spatial Light – Structure in Neon for the 9th Milan Triennial: spiralling elusively across the ceiling of the Palazzo dell’Arte in Milan, this 100-meter-long neon loop marks an early example of the artist’s search for a ‘spatial environment’ that would surpass the boundaries of painting, sculpture and architecture. Radiating with an electric and intangible luminescence, the sculpture serves as an important prototype in the development of the artist’s Tagli, with their gestural cuts, sweeping dynamism, and aesthetic allure. Indeed, composed at the very height of his artistic powers, Concetto spaziale, Attese exemplifies Fontana’s pioneering aesthetic in which colour, movement and space triumphantly converge.
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