When Lucio Fontana's Attese, his 'Cuts', were first revealed to the world, it was on the cover of the 1958 Venice Biennale catalogue, and the work was blue. Concetto spaziale, Attese was executed a decade later, and appears to look back both at that first manifestation of what was to become the crispest and most elegant expression of Fontana's Spatialism, and also to his friendship with a younger French artist, Yves Klein. For these serene, almost calligraphic slashes which parade across the canvas, a progression of linear voids, have been cut into a canvas in an intense monochrome reminiscent of Klein's own patented International Klein Blue. That colour had in part been inspired by the sky itself, with Klein claiming as early as 1948 that, 'The blue sky is my first art work' (Klein, quoted in T. McEvilley, 'Yves Klein: Conquistador of the Void', pp. 19-87, Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston, 1982, p. 28). It is to a similar sense of the depth of the heavens that Fontana has here turned.
Fontana himself, on visiting a 1957 exhibition of Klein's monochrome canvases all created in IKB, had purchased one of the works and also met the artist. There was a great degree of mutual influence between Fontana and Klein, and their respect for each other also grew into friendship, their correspondence written in Spanish. Fontana would later recall that Klein 'was very generous, very respectful also for my age. Each time that I went to Paris, he waited for me at the station' (Fontana, quoted in A. White, 'Industrial Painting's Utopias: Lucio Fontana's Expectations', pp. 98-124, October, Spring 2008, p. 104). In the same year that he created Concetto spaziale, Attese, Fontana would look back and recall that, 'Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension. He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important' (Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp. 34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana', exh. cat., Amsterdam & London, 1988, p. 34). And it is to that blue dimension that Fontana himself appears here to be paying homage in Concetto spaziale, Attese, using an approximation of that same colour in order to move further, to cross the boundary of the Immaterial and enter the realm of the Infinite, the Spatial.
These slashes are by no means an attack on the IKB, but instead show Fontana's tribute to a much-missed colleague, and show him moving further into the realm of the three- and four-dimensional, adding gestures to the canvas that ground the work and emphasise its origin as a product of humanity, rather than a glimmering portal to Klein's mystical dimension. While there are differences between these notions, it is telling that, during a similar period, both artists found themselves fascinated by notions of space, materiality and emptiness. Both artists were deeply mystical, although Fontana was far more fascinated by the age of technology in which he was living, by the notion of man being able to travel through the heavens at vast speeds. Klein, like Fontana, believed that at some point, mankind would cease to be bound by the surface of our planet:
'We will all become aerial men, we will know the force of upward attraction, toward the void and the totality at one and the same time; when the forces of terrestrial attraction have been dominated in this way we will literally levitate to total physical and spiritual liberty' (Klein, 1959, quoted in McEvilley, ibid., 1982, p. 28).
Embracing similar beliefs, Fontana sought to create artworks that expressed timeless notions in a manner that had some relevancy in this new age of space travel, explaining of the redundancy of traditional art that, 'God is invisible, God is incomprehensible; this is why no artist today can depict God seated on a throne with the world in his hands and a beard... The religions, too, must adapt themselves to the state of science' (Fontana, quoted in B. Hess, Lucio Fontana 1899-1968: 'A New Fact in Sculpture', Cologne, 2006, p. 68). Accordingly, he turned to creating holes within the surface of his artworks, creating pools of infinity, ineradicable sections of space that would outlive the canvas around them. It is the slash itself that is Fontana's artwork, the eternal result of a momentary gesture. In this, Klein's statement that 'My paintings are the ashes of my art' is equally applicable to Fontana's Concetto spaziale, Attese (Klein, quoted in N. Rosenthal, 'Assisted Levitation: The Art of Yves Klein', pp. 89-135, loc. cit., 1982, p. 92).
Demonstrating the conceptual kinship between these two artists, Klein also explored the notion of creating space, be it in his celebrated photographed leap into the void or in one of his most famous performances, Le vide. In this, he held an exhibition at the Galerie Iris Clert in 1958 from which he removed all the paintings, leaving only the empty gallery. This 'Void' was itself an artwork, a realm of the Immaterial; Klein would repeat similar gestures again, creating similar zones of the Immaterial for instance in Krefeld. Likewise, his Zones de sensibilityé picturelle immatérielle, his signed portions of invisible space sold in exchange for a measurement of pure gold, appear to be the cousins of the slashes in Concetto spaziale, Attese, showing the kindred spirit, the parallel artistic beliefs, of Klein and of Fontana.