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Details & Cataloguing

The Italian Sale

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Lucio Fontana
1899 - 1968
CONCETTO SPAZIALE, ATTESE
signed and titled on the reverse
waterpaint on canvas
41 by 33cm.; 16 1/8 by 13in.
Executed in 1963-64.
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This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under the number 1900/270.

Provenance

Yoshihara Jiro, (acquired directly from the artist)

Private Collection, Japan

Exhibited

Osaka, Gutai Pinacotheca, Lucio Fontana, Giuseppe Capogrossi, 1964

Literature

Hashizume Setsuya and Kato Mizuho, Eds., Postwar Avant-Garde Art from Osaka, Osaka 2013, p. 28, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Imbued with the rich tonality of glorious golden hues and incised with two cursive lyrical cuts, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a mesmerising display of Lucio Fontana’s most radical and recognised series of works, the tagli (cuts). As a disruptive intervention into the traditional, two-dimensional flatness of the canvas, Fontana’s slashing of the medium became a symbolic, visual, and conceptual act that would not only redefine the recessional Italian artistic landscape but have wide-reaching international influence, as reflected in the illustrious provenance of the present work. Featured in an exhibition alongside Giuseppe Capogrossi at the Gutai Pinacoteca in Osaka in 1964 and illustrated on the advertising poster, Concetto Spaziale, Attese was held in the personal collection of Yoshihara Jiro's, the founder of the avant-garde Gutai group in Japan. A true visionary and artistic genius himself, Yoshihara included Concetto Spaziale in this exhibition, thus confirming the present work as a literal and logical outcome of his vision regarding Gutai's interrelationship with its Western counterparts. In bridging the dialogue between the Italian and Japanese avant-garde in the post-war era, Concetto Spaziale not only forms part of Fontana’s most celebrated and recognisable cycle of works but is testament to the artist’s enduring, international legacy.

That Gutai shared some similarities with its Euro-American sister movements, Informel and Abstract Expressionism, has unsurprisingly been well-documented; the three groups' convergence, divergence, and conference with one another has all likewise been explored in many notable publications and exhibitions. But Yoshihara's personal appreciation for Fontana beyond the merits of his participation in Gutai-associated events is rarely mentioned. In particular, it is abundantly clear that Yoshihara saw something of import – if not of mere affinity – in Fontana's works, with Gutai crossing paths with the artist on several occasions such as at the seminal exhibition ‘Nul 1965’ at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where both Yoshihara and Fontana exhibited alongside the leading protagonists of the ZERO movement. Yoshihara was certainly receptive of Fontana’s omnipotent visual idiom to create serene compositions of spatial invocations. Under his fervent and constant tutelage, and through various contacts and collaborations, Gutai members were extremely knowledgeable about their contemporaries; they were especially familiar with the movements of artists in the West such as Lucio Fontana. As early as in 1954, Yoshihara and student Shimamoto Shozo happened upon the Italian-Argentinian artist's works in an exhibition in Japan. Just three years later, for the eighth issue of the Gutai group's dedicated magazine, the eponymous Gutai, Yoshihara and French art critic Michel Tapie co-produced a special edition entitled "L'aventure informelle", bearing a photograph negative of Lucio Fontana's work as its cover. Precipitated by Tapie's deep appreciation for Gutai, this joint effort was released on September 29, 1957, and the magazine's cover featured a bold, black-and white negative: a close-up of one of Fontana's punctured canvases, each hole casting long brooding shadows. Later on in 1960, Western artists including Fontana sent two original artworks to the Gutai group, who staged an "International Sky Festival" by releasing banners with superimposed versions of the originals on the roof of the Takashimaya department store, aiming to use the limitless sky as a "stage" and thus echo Fontana’s own cosmic explorations. From the late 1940s onwards, Fontana experimented with puncturing techniques, creating holes in paper or canvases – not unlike those that he submitted to The International Sky Festival. In his exploration of puncture-works, the notion of two versus three dimensionality is obscured, each hole deepening an otherwise flat medium. The importance of this discovery and innovation was paramount to Fontana's creations, and throughout the last two decades of his life, the artist sought to refine and extend this concept.

First conceived in 1958, the tagli have come to define the serene contemplation of cosmic infinity, echoing Fontana’s postulate of Spazialismo as a quest to explore time and space within the pictorial dimensions. In his tireless examination of a wide range of different, primarily monochromatic colour compositions, it is the iridescent and opulent vibrancy of the gold in the present work that unequivocally recalls Fontana’s celebrated corpus of Venezia works. As an homage to the brilliance of Venice, the works from this series often feature an opalescent palette of silver and gold tones to celebrate the centuries-old, sun-drenched nature of the city. Created in 1962, two years before the Venezia cycle, we can already observe in the present work the artist’s future development in the treatment of lustrous colour that is juxtaposed by the invigorated darkness of the cuts. Fontana’s preference for strong and powerful chromaticity undoubtedly references Yves Klein’s monochromes. The two artists met at Klein’s famous exhibition ‘Proposte monocrome, epoca blu’ at the Apollinaire gallery in Milan in 1957 and a keen intellectual exchange developed between the two artists. The present work in particular is reminiscent of the dazzling and hypnotic qualities in Yves Klein’s Monogold in which the purity of the gold colour is as much compelling as it is ephemeral.

Displaying the reciprocal influence between Fontana and Japanese avant-garde art, perhaps the most striking feature of Concetto Spaziale for Yoshihara was its visceral but beautiful quality. The founder of Gutai extolled "the innate beauty of matter" in contemporary art in the Gutai Manifesto, which he penned in 1956: "Ruins unexpectedly welcome us with warmth and friendliness; they speak to us through their beautiful cracks and rubble." In a global post-war era that sought to impart form from deluge, the incandescent Concetto Spaziale, Attese fulfils this seemingly impossible task in the most striking of ways.

The Italian Sale

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London