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

Concetto Spaziale, Attese

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto Spaziale, Attese
signed, inscribed and titled 'l. Fontana “Concetto spaziale” ATTESE Domani vado a Venezia ne o’ proprio nostalgia' (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
36 ¼ x 28 ¾ in. (92.1 x 73 cm.)
Executed in 1965.
Galleria Vismara, Milan
Private collection, Milan, 1970
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, Milan, 25 May 2004, lot 286
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux rédigé par Enrico Crispolti, vol. II, Brussels, 1974, pp. 158-159, n. 65 T 20 (illustrated).
E. Crispolti, Fontana. Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan, 1986, p. 560, n. 65 T 20 (illustrated).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol II, Milan, 2006, p. 749, n. 65 T 20 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Lucio Fontana’s oeuvre is astounding for its persistence in pursuit of a larger ideal. Working on the fringe of the avant-garde in the middle of the twentieth century, his bold actions served to influence countless artists seeking a way to break from traditional definitions of painting and sculpture. Realized in the last few years of his life, Concetto Spaziale, Attese comes from a large series of such works that investigate temporal concerns at the height of twentieth century Modernism. Instead of working with the flatness of the canvas or the formal properties of the paint in abstract terms, Fontana took a philosophical approach. Starting with an even surface of waterpaint on canvas, the artist would ruminate upon this intermediate step for some time before making a decisive motion. “I need a lot of concentration,” he explained. “… Sometimes I leave the canvas there propped up for weeks before I am sure what I will do with it, and only when I feel certain do I begin” (L. Fontana, quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artists Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 82). The amount of time Fontana spent with each work is palpable when one observe the clean, single cuts that make up each tagli. The cut is meant to inspire rumination on humanity’s place in the universe and the vastness of time.
Evenly coated in white across a vertical rectangular structure, Concetto Spaziale, Attese contains multitudes within its simple composition. Four tagli (Fontana’s term for his signature incisions) have been made in the pristine surface with the artist’s carefully measured hand. There are two higher cuts and two lower, alternating from high to low as they march across the canvas. One could be excused for thinking initially that these breaks were made at random, but the direction, length, and precise placement speaks to Fontana’s meditative practice. From the left to the right, the first and third tagli are made at the same angle and height. The second and fourth are related as well. This uniformity helps the eye rest upon the canvas’s surface and then fall into the darkness behind the work. Peering at Fontana’s pieces, one is gradually aware of the soft curve the cut canvas creates, the rolling shadow where it curls, and the meticulous manner in which the artist pierces the cloth.
One of the instigators of what he would later term Spatialism, Fontana’s artistic roots (and the seed that would grow to be this artistic credo) stretch back to the end of World War II when the world was still reeling from the effects of the global conflict. Working alongside a number of artists in his native Argentina, Fontana put forth a manifesto that read: “We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist.” Fontana suggested instead an artform “based on the unity of time and space” (L. Fontana, et al, Manifesto Blanco, Buenos Aires, 1946). By making holes and cuts in the canvas, Fontana broke the illusion of the painting’s surface to open up tears in space. This concetto spaziale (“spatial concept”) emphasized the canvas not as a painting or a sculpture, but a place for action to take place and for energy to pour forth. “I do not want to make a painting,” exclaimed Fontana. “I want to open up space” (L. Fontana, quoted in J. van der Marck and E. Crispolti, La Connaissance, Brussels, 1974, p. 7). Though the materials of paint and canvas may be traditional, the end result is a record of temporal incursions and the artist himself.
What can at first seem a simple gesture actually embodies a moment pregnant with potential energy. The word attese is added to the end of many of Fontana’s titles, as it is in the present work. Translated as ‘waiting’ or ‘expectation’, it is meant to point to the sense of anticipatory reflection the pieces are intended to evoke. “My cuts are above all a philosophical statement,” he noted, “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, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, p. 23). Working in the first two-thirds of the last century, Fontana was intimately aware of the breakneck pace of the modern world around him. Art, technology, and society at large continued to advance at astounding speeds from the 1940s onward, and the artist felt a need to embody this limitless potential in a nuanced manner. Staring into the void that the tagli open in the canvas, one sees the vast expanse of the universe opening up before them.

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