Executed in 1964, Concetto spaziale, Attese represents Fontana's revolutionary move away from the flat and illusory space of the canvas towards an art that was a synthesis of movement, time and space: an art that took account of new technology and scientific progress. In keeping with this regard for scientific discovery was Fontana's proposal to transform matter into energy and invade space with dynamic movement.
The scientific findings of modern man, from theories of evolution to the atomic physics that could divide the smallest particles of matter, had irrevocably changed the concept of man's place in the world. Fontana understood the impact of these concepts on a metaphysical level. He embraced the idea of man's insignificance in the macrocosm of the universe, believing that such an understanding would ultimately lead to an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things and free him from all worldly desires: 'The sense of measurement and of time no longer exists. Before it could be like that...but today it is certain, because man speaks of billions of years, of thousands and thousands of billions of years to reach, and so, here is the void, man is reduced to nothing...When man realises...that he is nothing, nothing, that he is pure spirit he will no longer have materialistic ambitions...man will become like God, he will become spirit' (cited in Lucio Fontana exh. cat. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 1998, p. 246.).
In slicing open the surface of Concetto spaziale, Attese, Fontana sought to harness the new abstract concepts of energy and the infinite nature of space to produce an art that accurately reflected the Nuclear age. As a culmination of his Spatialist theories, Fontana dedicated his life to the technique of cutting through to the void, completely transforming his painting's physical and symbolic form to draw our attention to the fact that seemingly concrete matter is merely transitory energy. Following the idea that all matter is in a constant state of flux, the cutting gesture instigates a butterfly effect, transferring the spirit and energy of its own making from the body into and beyond the canvas plane to project endlessly into the infinity of space. Concetto spaziale, Attese is therefore a perfect expression of one of the central tenets of what Fontana described as his 'Spatialist Research' - a celebration of what he considered to be the eternal nature of the gesture.
Inserting the third dimension into the two-dimensional plane, Fontana breaks away from the finite, impenetrable and resolutely flat character of the painting's surface. The three slanting strikes across the Concetto spaziale, Attese permit light, another form of moving energy, to not only bounce off the surface of the painting but, in theory, to pass through from our domain in front of the canvas or project from the abyss behind (in theory only, as to heighten the dramatic effect and to lend the cuts a sense of the void, they are each in fact backed with black tape). Fontana has reduced the physical presence of the rectangular plane by painting it white, allowing the mystery of what lies behind the surgically precise slits to emerge with dramatic force. Although the force of taking a sharp blade to a painting was frequently interpreted as a violent and destructive act, Fontana defended his work as a creative exploration of intangible phenomena. His holes and slashes were not an attack on art, or a vandalism desecrating the media of the now redundant past, but were instead the opening of a door into new realms of artistic discovery.
Traditionally, art is a material object treasured for what it depicts, but Fontana sought to liberate himself from the conceptual constraints of matter to give shape to the formless and immeasurable. Even though the canvas stands as the material evidence of the opening up of space, it is almost incidental, and is arguably secondary to the space itself. The definition of the work therefore lies outside the painting's appearance - it is the physical gesture of cutting that is the 'spatial concept', not the cuts themselves. Developing his ideas on the effects of movement through space, Fontana's work disregards conventional production techniques to create a radically new visual language that introduced the concept of immateriality in art. As Fontana confirmed, his paintings were not intended as a field for descriptions or expressions, but were the site of an event that extends far beyond the confining plane of the picture: 'At a time when people were talking about planes; the plane of the surface, the plane of depth etc., making a hole was a radical gesture that broke the space of the picture and that said: after this we are free to do what we want. You can't confine the space of the picture to the limits of the canvas, but it has to be extended to the whole environment. I don't know how or in how many ways, because unfortunately I won't be alive in the year two thousand, but the important thing has been to testify to this need.' (L. Fontana quoted in D. Palazzoli, 'Intervista con Lucio Fontana' in Bit, no.5, Milan, Oct-Nov. 1967.)