Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)
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Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale

Details
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale
signed and dated ‘l. fontana 56’ (lower right); signed ‘l. fontana’ (on the reverse)
oil, sand and glitter on canvas
23 5/8 x 19¾in. (60 x 50cm.)
Executed in 1956
Provenance
G. Pomè Collection.
Galleria Flaviana, Locarno.
Private Collection, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
Literature
G. Ballo, Fontana. Idea per un ritratto, Turin 1970, no. 224, p. 258 (titled Autoritratto (Concetto spaziale); illustrated in colour, p. 184).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, vol. I, no. 56 BA 23 (illustrated, p. 52); vol. II, no. 56 BA 23 (illustrated, p. 48)
E. Crispolti, Fontana. Catalogo generale, Milan 1986, vol. I, no. 56 BA 23 (illustrated, p. 173).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milan 2006, vol. I, no. 56 BA 23 (illustrated, p. 326).
Exhibited
Milan, Galleria Pagani del Grattacielo, Autoritratto, 1956.
Verona, Palazzo Forti, Lucio Fontana metafore barocche, 2002-2003, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).
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

‘A form of art is now demanded which is based on the necessity of this new vision. The baroque has guided us in this direction, in all its as yet unsurpassed grandeur, where the plastic form is inseparable from the notion of time … This conception arose from man’s new idea of the existence of things; the physics of that period reveal for the first time the nature of dynamics. It is established that movement is an essential condition of matter as a beginning of the conception of the universe’ (L. Fontana, trans. C. Damiano, Manifesto tecnico dello Spazialismo, 1951, reproduced in Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2006, p. 229).

Like rudimentary symbols carved into an ancient planetary landscape, the glittering, encrusted surface patterns of Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale embody the visionary splendour of the artist’s early investigations. Executed in 1956, it stems from the series of Barocchi or ‘Baroque’ works that represent an important milestone in the development of Fontana’s ‘Spatialist’ aesthetic. Created between 1954 and 1957, the Barrochi formed a critical bridge between the mystical opulence of the Italian counter-reformation – a period that had long fascinated Fontana – and the futuristic age of space exploration from which his practice took its cue. Working with rich, tactile concoctions of oil, sand and glitter, he forged fluid geological terrains, sparkling sediments and mysterious ciphers: fragile vestiges of kinetic potential that seemed to point to alternative realms of being. Variously punctured by rows of small holes, the work is conceptually related to the series of Buchi (‘Holes’) that Fontana had begun in 1949, and whose invocation of the dimension beyond the pictorial surface would ultimately give way to his iconic slashed paintings several years later. Poised on the brink of a new frontier, with Russia’s launch of Sputnik the following year, Concetto spaziale illustrates Fontana’s burgeoning attempts to breed a new artistic language, straining to reconcile past and present as science and technology raced towards an unknown future. A formative body of work within the artist’s oeuvre, examples from the Barocchi series are held in institutions including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome and the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna. Shown in the year of its creation in an exhibition entitled Autoritratto (Self-Portrait) at the Galleria Pagani del Grattacielo, Milan, it is a work that is closely connected to Fontana’s sense of artistic identity at this critical moment in his career.

Fontana’s relationship with the Baroque had begun early in his practice, exemplified by his mosaic-covered sculptures and near-Futurist forms of the 1930s. However, it was not until much later that he was able to articulate the connection between his admiration for its aesthetic and the conceptual aims outlined in his Spatialist manifestoes. For Fontana, the seventeenth-century’s invocation of unearthly extravagance and metaphysical ecstasy found new expression in man’s desire to penetrate the cosmos, to shatter the boundaries of time and space and glimpse the incomprehensible vastness of infinity. In the Barocchi, Fontana sought to consecrate this lineage. Writing in 1951, the artist explained that ‘A form of art is now demanded which is based on the necessity of this new vision. The baroque has guided us in this direction, in all its as yet unsurpassed grandeur, where the plastic form is inseparable from the notion of time … This conception arose from man’s new idea of the existence of things; the physics of that period reveal for the first time the nature of dynamics. It is established that movement is an essential condition of matter as a beginning of the conception of the universe’ (L. Fontana, trans. C. Damiano, Manifesto tecnico dello Spazialismo, 1951, reproduced in Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2006, p. 229). Contrasting their deliberately earthbound materiality with their invocation of dimensions beyond the canvas, Fontana’s Barocchi illustrate his early alignment with the conceptual aims of Art Informel. Like the raw, caustic topographies of Antoni Tàpies and Jean Fautrier, Concetto spaziale shimmers with flashes of figuration, traces of recognisable forms turned to ashes and dust. Yet, unlike much of their work, Fontana’s canvases are not conceived as sites of debris nor relics of human presence: rather, they are active celebrations of the energy latent within physical matter. They are not dead remains but dynamic launch-pads – platforms from which we might begin to catch sight of the new, uncharted dimensions that were increasingly within man’s grasp.

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