Piatti floreali

Lucio Fontana

(Rosario Santa Fè, 1899 - Varese, 1968)
Ceramic Diameter each 40 cm (15.8 in.) 1951

“The physics of this age, for the first time, expresses nature through dynamics. It determines how movement is a condition immanent to matter as the principle of the universe’s condition.”

(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.

Piatti floreali, 1951 is part of a series of works including ceramic and clay pieces produced after 1949, conceived with a specifically decorative or home-furnishing purpose, such as plates, vases, small sculptures, handles, etc. Although Fontana is best known for his Concetti Spaziali - the spatial environments and slashed canvases he created in the 1950s and 1960s - clay modelling and ceramics have always been central to his artistic process: some of his first Concetti Spaziali were actually made in clay before entering the space of the canvas.

Since the 1930s, Fontana produced a body of baroque ceramic work in which he addressed the problems of both painting and sculpture in innovative and productive new ways: he produced objects that weren’t paintings or sculptures, but proofs of matter’s continuity in space, characterised by elements of chance and accident. While definitely figurative - featuring anything from battle scenes like in Guerrieri a Cavallo, 1950 shown at the Venice Biennale that same year, to flowers, as it’s the case for Piatti Floreali, 1951 - these expressive works share a raw trait, a materiality which is at once intentional and determined by chance. They derive from the artist’s energetic modelling by hand as the clay registers and solidifies his process, a manipulation of the surface that prefigures the violence of his Concetti Spaziali.

In his early years Fontana spent time in his sculptor father's workshop, already showing an interest in sculpture, which he developed in parallel to painting, his approach to both media being similarly positioned between representation and abstraction. In his use of ceramics, he abided to the same criteria as in painting, elevating ceramics from its status of prosaic, everyday craft to that of an equal of painting both for material and genre.

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"Italian modern and post-war contemporary art"

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