Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE ITALIAN COLLECTOR
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)

Concetto spaziale

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
Concetto spaziale
signed 'l. fontana' (on the underside)
glazed terracotta
9 7/8 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8in. (25 x 25 x 25cm.)
Executed in 1965-1966
Private Collection, Italy.
Galleria Artecentro, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1970.
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.
Post lot text
This work is registered at the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, no. 4208/1, and is accompanied by a certificate.

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Lot Essay

Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale (1965-66) is a captivating orb of lustrous, earthy ceramic. Its surface is scored round to create two hemispheres, and its upper half erupts with ragged, directional holes that seem to have burst from within. Below, Fontana has inscribed his signature in a large, exuberant hand. Revisiting the ideas of his Nature series of 1959, in which he gashed solid meteorites of terracotta or bronze with his distinctive tagli (cuts) or gouged them with buchi (holes), this work brings Fontana’s Spatialist explorations of man’s presence in the universe – a theme urgently relevant in the years following the first manned spaceflight of 1961 – into conversation with the sculptural roots of his practice. Evoking an asteroid or planet coursing through space, the work echoes the form of a globe, the mode of three-dimensional mapping by which humanity has situated its terrestrial existence for centuries. By rupturing this surface with a constellation of buchi, Fontana opens the infinite fourth dimension of space that he had explored through his slashed and punctured canvases since the early 1950s. The work’s enigmatic presence is heightened by its warm, telluric glaze, which at once seems born of the earth and echoes the iron-red tint of Mars, our nearest planet.

Fontana’s earliest artworks were produced in ceramic. He spent the spring of 1936 at Albisola, a Ligurian coastal town where a circle of Futurist artists were experimenting with ceramic production; he also worked in pottery at Sèvres in France, and later in his birth country of Argentina, before his return to Italy in 1947. He would restlessly model sea creatures and baroque figures at high speed, enjoying the instantaneous fusion of pigment and surface when the glaze was fired. With their gaping and incised spheroid forms, the Nature of 1959 represented a later evolution in his sculptural practice, incorporating the Spatialist ideas set out in his 1946 Manifesto Bianco, which called for ‘art based on the unity of time and space’ (Manifesto Bianco, Buenos Aires 1946, in E. Crispolti et al. (eds.), Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, p. 116). He imagined them as signs of human presence in the deathly silence of a new world, their primal, egg-like forms imprinted with the creative desire for inert matter to come alive.

Concetto spaziale, with its earthly equator and deftly cratered skin, revisits the ceramic medium to take these ideas even further. Fontana was particularly fascinated in the 1960s by the physical and mental tolls placed on astronauts, which had become matters of great public interest since Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering voyage into space. The welts in Concetto spaziale’s northern hemisphere echo canvases of the same period in which Fontana would enlarge holes with his fingers, as if tearing at a wound. Discussing the increasing violence of these works, Fontana said ‘They represent the pain of man in space. The pain of the astronaut, squashed, compressed, with instruments sticking out of his skin, is different from ours … He who flies in space is a new type of man, with new sensations, not least painful ones’ (L. Fontana, quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London 2000, p. 197). The bursting globe of Concetto spaziale can be seen to reflect not only Gagarin’s historic orbit of the earth, but also the vulnerability of the body in space, and the heroic danger of human endeavours into the infinite unknown. The innocence and optimism of Fontana’s 1940s Spatialist vision, fuelled by the gathering momentum of scientific knowledge, was scarred with corporeal drama once the physical reality of space travel was achieved. Much like the climactic, ovoid Fine di Dio canvases of 1963-64, Concetto spaziale embodies both the excitement of exploration and the grandeur of catastrophe as man journeys to the end of the universe.

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