Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE FOLCO COLLECTION
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale, Attese

Details
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale, Attese
signed, titled and inscribed 'ATTESE 1+1-78AET l. fontana "Concetto spaziale"' (on the reverse)
waterpaint on canvas
28¾ x 23 5/8in. (73 x 60cm.)
Executed in 1962
Provenance
G. Zini Collection, Bologna.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 July 1987, lot 664.
Gallery Art Point, Tokyo.
Private Collection, Japan.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 10 December 1999, lot 154.
Private Collection, Italy.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner, and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, vol.II, Brussels 1974, no. 62 T 20 (illustrated, p. 132).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 62 T 20 (illustrated, p. 445).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, vol. II, Milan 2006, no. 62 T 20 (illustrated, p. 631).
Exhibited
Tokyo, Tama Art University Museum, Lucio Fontana Spatial Conception, 1990, no. 43 (illustrated in colour, p. 47).
Tokyo, Mitsukoshi Museum of Art, Lucio Fontana. La penetrazione dello spazio, 1992. This exhibition later travelled to Kagoshima, Municipal Museum of Art and Nishinomiya, Otani Museum of Art.
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

‘I’m either a madman or a saint!!! However, I may be a saint. I have suffered so much oppression that by now I should be in a mental hospital, but these “Attese” give me peace!! In so many years of work, this is the happiest moment for me!’.
Lucio Fontana

‘An act of rupture, beyond the limits imposed by habit, customs and tradition but – let this be clear – one that was born of an honest understanding of tradition, and the academic use of the chisel, of the pencil, of the brush and of colour’.
Lucio Fontana

‘In future there will no longer be art the way we understand it… No, art, the way we think about it today will cease…there’ll be something else. I make these cuts and these holes, these Attese and these Concetti… Compared to the Spatial era I am merely a man making signs in the sand. I made these holes. But what are they? They are the mystery of the Unknown in art, they are the Expectation of something that must follow’.
Lucio Fontana

A troupe of nine balletic cuts penetrates the surface of Lucio Fontana’s enigmatic and otherworldly Concetto spaziale, Attese. Each carefully executed incision follows an intuitive rhythm and graceful momentum, sending ripples of energy, light and shadow across the monochrome green canvas, a colour rarely seen within Fontana’s œuvre. With its proliferation of elegant slashes spread across the olive-hued surface, the present work is reminiscent of the earliest tagli Fontana made in 1958. Yet, unlike these works, here Fontana has mastered his gesture, attaining the perfect balance between gesture and material, light and space. It is in the striking contrast between the unblemished monochrome surface and the darkness of the enigmatic voids in Concetto spaziale, Attese that Fontana’s Spatialism, the movement he founded in 1947, finds its greatest expression. With the dramatic gesture of the cut, Fontana opened up the two-dimensional surface of the canvas to incorporate the space surrounding it and reveal the limitless black void behind: the enigmatic fourth dimension. Revelatory in its concept and infinitely poetic in its appearance, Concetto spaziale, Attese immortalises the fleeting moment of the gesture for eternity; a crystallization of the artist’s career-long formal and conceptual concerns.

Fontana began his series of tagli in 1958, four years before he created the present work. Having already punctured the canvas with constellations of small holes in a series known as buchi, Fontana extended this concept by slashing the canvas in vertical cuts. With the downward thrust of a razor blade, Fontana severed through the site that had served as the basis of artistic creation for centuries. Splitting apart the haloed surface of the canvas, Fontana destroyed the traditional illusory space of the picture plane and revealed to the viewer the dark space that lies beyond the canvas. ‘I make a hole in the canvas’, the artist stated, ‘in order to leave behind the old pictorial formula, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface’ (Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, ‘The last interview given by Fontana’, in W. Beeren & N. Serota, eds., Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Amsterdam & London, 1988, p. 34). This performative act was one of the most decisive breakthroughs of Twentieth Century art; a radical innovation that revolutionised the conception of painting.

Fontana’s fascination with the recent technological advancements that showed that the image of space had become an indeterminate universe without confines and external points of reference laid the basis for his own spatial research. Shocked by the overwhelming power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world acutely realised the huge potential nuclear technology, elemental particles and the atom itself possessed to alter the planet and open the door to an unknown reality. In the wake of these events, Fontana felt a change in art’s essence and form was needed in order to arrive at a greater art, one which could conform to the needs of the spirit of the time. ‘The quiet life has disappeared’, the Manifesto Blanco of 1946 declared. ‘The notion of speed is constant in the life of man. The artistic age of colours and paralytic forms is over. Man is increasingly insensitive to fixed images without signs of vitality. The old immobile images no longer satisfy the needs of the new man, who has been formed in the need for action, in coexistence with mechanics, which imposes constant dynamism… Appealing to this transformation in the nature of man, in psychic and moral terms and in all human relations and activities, we abandon the practice of all the forms of known art, we commence the development of an art based on the unity of time and space’ (Manifesto Blanco, 1946 in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato, eds., Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Rome, 1998, p. 116).

Fontana had been watching these innovations in space travel and quantum physics with fascination, and considered existing modes of painting and sculpture outdated, unable to reflect the accelerated process of contemporary change. In the new age of Space-exploration, mankind would gain, he believed, a new spiritual awareness that would ultimately transcend everything about the earth-bound world of matter and all materialistic thinking. In this new age, Fontana believed, the aesthetic or artistic expression of man’s intelligence would take on new non-material forms. Liberated from the stuff of matter, this new art would be made with light and space. Faced with this reality, Fontana called for artists to embrace this revolutionary, exciting age and produce a new art entrenched in the extraordinary developments of science and space travel.

For Fontana, the tagli came to serve as the purest distillation of his Spatialist program, a perfect and complete visual incarnation of his artistic aims. With this gesture, he was able to realise his bold conceptual aims, transforming the canvas into a three-dimensional object that combined the dynamic elements of time, space and movement to become neither painting nor sculpture but instead a spatial concept that existed in real time and space. By piercing the canvas, Fontana created a portal to another dimension, revealing another world akin to the unchartered territory of the infinite cosmos. Behind each cut lies a pool of dark, perpetual space, full of mystery and possibilities. In this way, the mystical openings visible in Concetto spaziale, Attese invite the viewer to engage with the dark infinity beyond the picture plane, creating an almost transcendent experience. Unlike the gesturality and physicality of the buchi, the dramatic, singular gesture of the tagli resonated with an elegant minimalism, serving as the embodiment of the artist’s formal and theoretical concerns. ‘With the taglio’, Fontana stated, ‘I have invented a formula that I think I cannot perfect…I succeeded in giving those looking at my work a sense of spatial calm, a cosmic rigour, of serenity with regard to the Infinite. Further than this I could not go’ (Fontana, quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 58).

For Fontana these cuts were not an impulsive gesture, nor an inherently destructive act, but instead represented the synthesis and culmination of his Spatial explorations. ‘It’s not true that I made holes in the canvas in order to destroy it, no, I made holes in order to discover’, Fontana explained, ‘to find the cosmos of an unknown dimension’ (Fontana, quoted in M. Gale & R. Miracco, Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni, exh. cat., London, 2005-2006, p. 38). Every Attesa or ‘expectation’, a word affixed to the title of Fontana’s slash paintings, possesses a subtle dimension of the infinite beyond the surface, evoking not just the immeasurable space beyond the surface of the earth, but also the vastness of the human mind. Opening up the boundaries previously instilled by the confines of the canvas, Fontana was likewise seeking to expand the confines of human consciousness, leading the viewer into a new realm of heightened spiritual awareness. Speaking of the spiritual implications of his slashes, Fontana stated, ‘My cuts are above all a philosophical statement, 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’ (Fontana, quoted in L. Massimo Barbero, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., New York, 2006, p. 23).

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