Executed in 1965-66, Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, Attesa is at once the perfect expression of his Spatialist aesthetic and an intriguing insight into the world of twentieth-century Italian art, as it was given by the artist to the celebrated painter, Renato Guttuso.
Guttuso and Fontana seem to belong to very different worlds. What was the relationship between Fontana's Spatialism and Guttuso's Realism? How can we link Guttuso, who prepared his canvases using his knowledge of ancient art and traditional skills within the greater figurative tradition, with Fontana, who attacks the canvas with slashes, holes and insertions? In fact, their worlds were not so far apart: looking back at the Milan of the 1930s, a scene that buzzed with the talent of generations of artists, the two artists not only associated within the same circles, but also exhibited in the same gallery, Il Milione, which drew the attention of the most important art critics of the time. Fontana, who had just come back from Argentina in 1930, had his first show at the Galleria Il Milione shortly followed by a second one in 1935; this is considered to have been the first exhibition of abstract sculpture in Italy.
The effectiveness of the exhibition strategy that the Galleria Il Milione developed, meant success for Guttuso's shows; he therefore became an important figure in the Milanese artistic scene, coming to know a number of his contemporaries. During the turbulent years of economic woe of the early 1930s, Guttuso was completing his military service in Milan as an army officer, and had the opportunity to help his friends, among them Fontana, by inviting them to have lunch in the canteen of the barracks. Fontana reciprocated this kindness when Guttuso, having spent a short period of time in Palermo, decided to go back to Milan: Fontana managed to find his friend a studio in Guglielmo Street, very close to his own. The two friends used to have lunch together in Fontana's studio, enjoying the pasta cooked by Teresita, Fontana's wife. Some evenings, they headed to the Galleria Il Milione, while sometimes they went to the Caffè Biffi, which was frequented by many of the intellectuals living in Milan during that period, such as Quasimodo, Mucchi, Cantatore, Tomea and Carrieri. Both Guttuso and Fontana formed part of the Corrente movement which came into existence in 1938, with the magazine Corrente di Vita Giovanile as its focus-- it would later shorten its name to Corrente and focus on the painters, sculptors, poets and critics of the time.
The friendship between these two giants of twentieth-century Italian art lasted through the years, in particular when Guttuso begun to spend the summer in Velate at the end of the 1950s. This was near Varese, where Fontana moved in his final years, and so the two artists managed to spend time together. It was during this phase of their lives that the idea of the gift of Concetto spaziale, Attesa originated: the big red painting with its bold, calligraphic slash is a tribute to a friendship that bridged any differences of style or opinion, lasting over thirty years.