Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
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Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale

Details
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale
signed, dated and titled ‘l.fontana / concetto spaziale / 1953’ (on the reverse)
oil and glass pebbles on canvas
20 1/8 x 18 7/8in. (51 x 48cm.)
Executed in 1953
Provenance
Galleria Schettini, Milan.
Private Collection, Perugia, circa late 1950s.
Private Collection, Perugia, by descent from the above.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 16 October 2006, lot 216.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol. II, Brussels 1974, p. 32, no. 53 P 6 (illustrated, p. 31).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, p. 118, no. 53 P 6 (illustrated p. 119).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo ragionato di sculpture, dipiniti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 53 P 6 (illustrated p. 256).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

‘When I began using the “stones” I wanted to see if I could move forward ... I thought that with the stones, the light would flow better – that it would create more the effect of movement’ —L. FONTANA

‘[The] Baroque was a leap ahead … It represented space with a magnificence that is still unsurpassed and added the notion of time to the plastic arts. The figures seemed to abandon the flat surface and continue the represented movements in space’ —L. FONTANA


Evocative of constellations and galaxies, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale is a jewel-like example of the pietre (‘stones’) that occupy a pivotal position in the development of his Spatialist theories. Two vivid eruptions of matter spiral like supernovae amidst a deep blue void, punctuated by holes and adorned with sapphire-like fragments of glass. Light courses through this matrix of peaks and craters, transforming the flat surface of the canvas into a dynamic, multi-dimensional terrain. Building on the philosophies first put forward in his Manifesto Blanco of 1946, Fontana sought to create a revolutionary art form equipped to translate the scientific advances of the Space Age. By piercing holes in the canvas, he sought to open up uncharted territories beyond its formerly sacrosanct surface: a gesture that corresponded to the recently-discovered infinity of the cosmos. There would be no more painting or sculpture, he claimed, but rather ‘concetti spaziali’, (‘spatial concepts’): inter-dimensional objects that gave form to the invisible notions of time, space, light and movement. Between 1952 and 1956, the pietre became the primary expressions of these aesthetic aims. Combining the perforated surfaces of the early buchi (‘holes’) with sparkling mineral fragments that protruded into space, they may be seen to prefigure the landmark series of works that Fontana would produce following his revelatory trip to Venice in 1961. ‘I thought that with the stones, the light would flow better’, he explained; ‘that it would create more the effect of movement’ (L. Fontana quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999, p. 17). Like relics from distant planets, they act in counterpoint with the dark apertures beneath, creating a luminous force field that quivers with radiant, unearthly splendour.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, theories of modern physics fundamentally challenged the way man perceived himself in the universe. Fontana was fascinated by recent technological advancements that showed space as an indeterminate cosmos without confines or external points of reference. He felt it essential to change the nature of visual representation in order to match the spirit of the time, and in the mid-1940s, along with a group of avant-garde artists in Buenos Aires, began to postulate a new art form. Spatialism, as it came to be known, decreed that ‘we abandon the practice of known art forms and we approach the development of an art based on the unity of time and space’ (L. Fontana, Manifesto Blanco, 1946, reproduced in R. Fuchs, Lucio Fontana: La cultura dell’occhio, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 1986, p. 80). By puncturing the canvas, Fontana sought to capture these ephemeral concepts in a single gesture. The holes that clustered upon the surface were conceived as residual traces of energy that opened up the unknown void beyond the canvas. ‘The discovery of the cosmos is a new dimension’, he explained; ‘it is infinity, so I make a hole in this canvas, which was at the basis of all the arts, and I have created an infinite dimension ... the idea is precisely that, it is a new dimension corresponding to the cosmos ... Einstein’s discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end ... I make holes, infinity passes through them, light passes through them, 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).

The pietre followed immediately on from these developments, embellishing the microcosmic language of the buchi with raw, concrete pieces of matter. By playing with the reflective properties of glass, Fontana was truly able to intensify his explorations of light and movement. Whilst the space behind the canvas was dark and unknown, the protruding mirror-like fragments created a kinetic pool of rays and beams, refracted like electric currents across the surface of the picture plane. In doing so, Fontana transformed traditionally earthbound media into a tools for visualising the dynamics of the cosmos. Stone and glass – once used to build cities – were now recast as vehicles for capturing the invisible forces of energy and motion. This was a concept that Fontana would further explore in his barrochi, in which oil, sand and glitter conspired to create visions of dazzling, mysterious worlds. In 1961, the pietre would allow Fontana to express his rapture at the glory of Venetian architecture, where light seemed to rebound from every gilded façade. The present work, in particular, seems to prefigure the aesthetic of these works, evoking the classical use of blue in Baroque Italian churches. ‘[The] Baroque was a leap ahead’, Fontana explained. ‘… It represented space with a magnificence that is still unsurpassed and added the notion of time of the plastic arts. The figures seemed to abandon the flat surface and continue the represented movements in space’ (L. Fontana, Manifesto Blanco, 1946, reproduced in Lucio Fontana: La cultura dell’occhio, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 1986, p. 115). In Concetto spaziale, Fontana pays tribute to this concept, offering a euphoric vision of motion that is at once elemental and futuristic.

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