‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement, an act of faith in the infinite, an affirmation of spirituality. When I sit down to contemplate one of my cuts, I sense all at once an enlargement of the spirit, I feel like a man freed from the shackles of matter, a man at one with the immensity of the present and of the future’ (L. Fontana quoted in L. M. Barbero, ‘Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York’ in L. M. Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., New York, 2006, p. 23).
With its perfectly-articulated slash penetrating the deep red surface of the canvas, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese of 1964 is a sumptuous example of his tagli or ‘cuts’. Piercing the very fibre of the canvas to reveal the uncharted void beyond, these works represent the most important realisation of Fontana’s ground-breaking Spatialist theories. Inspired by the scientific advances of the Space Age, Fontana sought to create a revolutionary art form equipped to translate the newly-discovered dimensions of the cosmos. By incising the canvas with a near-balletic series of calligraphic gestures, the artist gave birth to a visual language rooted in space, movement, time and energy: elements whose properties had been wholly redefined by man’s exploration of the universe. Fascinated by the astronomical discoveries that had shown the potential infinity of the cosmos, Fontana felt it essential to find an art that could explore these limitless possibilities, writing in 1948, ‘We refuse to believe that science and art are two separate things, in other words, that the gestures made by one of the two activities do not also belong to the other. Artists anticipate scientific gestures, scientific gestures always lead to artistic gestures’ (L. Fontana, Second Manifesto of Spatialism, 1948-1949, reproduced in R. Miracco, Lucio Fontana: At the Roots of Spatialism, exh. cat., Estorick Collection of Modern Art, London 2007, p. 37). With this iconoclastic gesture, Fontana captures a moment in eternity, transforming the two-dimensions of painting into a potentially infinite space.
Responding to the advent of space travel and the extraordinary scientific advances that shook the twentieth-century, Fontana sought transcendent new directions within his practice that could adequately express the ways in which mankind had come to perceive their place in the universe. Published in 1947 by Fontana and other avant-garde artists in Buenos Aires, the Manifesto Blanco outlined a new ideology known as Spatialism, which called for ‘the development of an art based on the unity of time and space’ (Manifesto Blanco, 1946, reproduced in R. Fuchs, Lucio Fontana: La cultura dell’occhio, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 1986, p. 80). Piercing the canvas, initially with his series of bucchi, or holes, and subsequently through his tagli, Fontana discovered an elegant solution to his conceptual aims, creating an object that could exist in material space while denoting the immateriality of the seemingly endless void beyond. ‘I make holes, infinity passes through them, light passes through them’, the artist explained; ‘there is no need to paint’ (L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti, ‘Spatialism and Informel. The Fifties’, in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Milan, 1998, p. 146).