Concetto spaziale

Lucio Fontana

(Rosario Santa Fè, 1899 - Varese, 1968)
Oil on canvas, pink 145.8 x 113.2 cm (57.4 x 44.6 in.) Signed on the reverse 'Lucio Fontana', signed lower right 'Lucio Fontana' and signed and inscribed on the reverse 'Al Cap. Donato / L. Fontana' 1962

“Einstein’s discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end. And here we have the foreground, middle ground and background, what do I have to do to go further? I make a hole, infinity passes through it, light passes through it… everyone thought I wanted to destroy; but it is not true, I have constructed.”

(Lucio Fontana)

Using a rich vocabulary of material, form, and action, Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968) continually challenged the boundaries of art making and the role of the artist. Celebrated as the founder of Spatialism, Lucio Fontana created the art movement in Milan in 1947, attempting to synthesise colour, sound, space and movement. Argentinian born, the Italian painter, sculptor and theorist’s introductory manifesto renounced the illusory space of traditional painting, seeking instead to promote ideas of gestural art in “real space” using technological imagery such as neon lights and television.

Concetto Spaziale, 1962 was created in the last months of Lucio Fontana’s life, which was a time of frenetic activity. In the eight months that span from the beginning of that year to his death on September 7th, 1968, Fontana produced around 150 works. In January Fontana left Milan and his studio in Corso Monforte to move to Comabbio, near Varese, where he restored the old family house and set up a new studio; there he worked on what had become his most iconic production - the tagli, or more correctly Concetti Spaziali.

Having formulated the comprehensive title Concetto Spaziale in 1947, Fontana used it for nearly all of his later works, the most effective of these being pieces with incisions rupturing a surface that preserves the elegantly erratic character of malleable organic materials such as wax or oil paint, like in Concetto Spaziale, 1962. All his Concetto Spaziale production employs contrasts as a point of departure to engage audiences in the struggle between the material and the spatial, invoking the concept of painting as more than a simple surface. They encapsulate the principles of the Spazialismo movement in entities condensing what was arguably the very invention of the medium of installation art: the lack of difference between the artwork and its environment and the paradox that no true art object can occupy space.

Building on a rich tradition in Italian art that turned unprecedented critical scrutiny onto the relation between the artwork and its putative containing space, Concetto Spaziale recalls the words expressed in 1912 by Umberto Boccioni: “Let us open up the figure like a window and close within it the environment in which it lives” (Umberto Boccioni, ‘Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture’, in: Robert L. Herbert, Ed., Modern Artists on Art: Ten Unabridged Essays, New Jersey 1964, p. 54). This aesthetic aim is not only visible in Spazialismo, but in the movements of Futurism and Arte Povera; with noteworthy and non-trivial corollaries to the present work including Giovanni Anselmo’s Torsion (1968).

Part of the Olii (Oils) series of 1957-1968, Concetto Spaziale, 1962 employs both planar shapes and undulating curves; it sabotages its flat canvas plane with a perforation whose violence stands in stark contrast to the delicacy of its pink chromatic value. The rough and raised paint texture of the holes interrupt the monochromatic composition, its fissures are not so much lacerations as they are sculptural construction, an extension of a two-dimensional surface.

Concerned by the possibility of forgeries, as a means to defend both himself and his work, Lucio Fontana always wrote an inscription on the back of his canvases. While the inscriptions on the back of his early Concetto Spaziale pieces were basically number sequences, the later ones were comments on a variety of matters testifying to the witty spirit of the artist: a large number of these were puns and plays on words that relate to matters of everyday life, the weather and even the artist’s passion for good cuisine.

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"Italian modern and post-war contemporary art"

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