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

La Silla Barroca

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968)
La Silla Barroca
incised with the artist's signature and dated ‘46 L. FONTANA’ (on the base)
47¼ x 25 7/8 x 31½in. (120 x 65 x 80cm.)
Executed in 1946
Pablo Edelstein Collection, Buenos Aires (acquired directly from the artist).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. Corradini, "Lucio Fontana Profeta del Arte Espacial" in Histonium, A. VIII, No. 94, Buenos Aires, 1947 (illustrated, p. 168).
Continente, no. 50, 1951, no. 1 (illustrated, p. 104).
M. Tapié, Devenir de Fontana, 1961 (illustrated and dated 1945, unpaged).
M. Tapié, Fontana, 1962 (illustrated, unpaged).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux, Vol. II, Brussels 1974, no. 45 SC 4 (illustrated, p. 21).
E. Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 45 SC 4 (illustrated, p. 84).
Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1987, p. 366 (illustrated and dated 1945, p. 367).
E. Crispolti, Fontana, 1999, p. 289, no. 72 (illustrated and dated 1945, p. 26).
E. Crispolti, Centenario di Lucio Fontana, 1999 (illustrated and dated 1945, p. 34).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Obras maestras de la Fundación Lucio Fontana de Milàn, Buenos Aires 1999 (illustrated, p. 21).
Lucio Fontana, metafore barocche, exh. cat., Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Palazzo Forti, Verona, 2002 (illustrated, p. 16).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 46 SC 16, (illustrated, p. 205).
Buenos Aires, XXXVI Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1946, no. 32.
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Lucio Fontana, 1998, no. 2/S/6 (illustrated, p. 127).
Buenos Aires, Centro Cultural Borges, Museo Juan B. Castagnino, Lucio Fontana: Profeta del Espacio, 1999, no. 45 ESC 4 (illustrated, p. 97).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold, 2019, p. 223, no. 23 (illustrated in colour, p. 99).

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Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti


La Silla Barroca was created in 1946, one of the most important years in Lucio Fontana’s career. With its swirling surface animated by peaks and rivulets of vigorously modelled, luminous white plaster, La Silla Barroca combines the artist’s distinctive form of expressive figuration with the concepts of nascent Spatialism, the bold and radical movement that he founded in Milan the following year. It was during this pivotal moment that Fontana, who was living, working and teaching in Buenos Aires, oversaw the writing of the Manifesto Blanco, a revelatory tract which offered the first definition of Spatialism. At this time Buenos Aires was an intellectual and artistic melting pot, providing Fontana the perfect climate in which to develop his ideas for an art form that would be freed from convention, breaking through the limits of the canvas to instead embody dynamic concepts of space, light and time. Fontana gave La Silla Barroca to Pablo Edelstein, an Argentine sculptor who was one of his students at the art school he cofounded, Altamira: Free School of Plastic Arts, and co-author of the Manifesto Blanco. Edelstein would become a lifelong friend of the artist, this gift serving as a testament to their enduring friendship.

The title of the present work – the Baroque chair – encapsulates one of the central interests for Fontana at this time: the art of the Baroque. ‘[the] Baroque was a leap ahead’, the Manifesto Blanco declared, ‘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’ (Manifesto Blanco, 1946, in E. Crispolti and R. Siligato, eds., Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Rome, 1998, p. 115). It was the gestural, dynamic illustration of movement that defines Baroque style, which served as an important influence on Fontana’s sculpture at this time. Taking a traditional subject – here a seated woman – Fontana shunned the cold, static and smooth surfaces of classical sculpture and instead modelled the figure with an intense dynamism, the vigorously modelled plaster serving to illustrate a sense of vital energy pulsing beneath the surface.

Pablo Edelstein recalled watching Fontana at work, his vivid description providing a fascinating glimpse into the way the artist would have created La Silla Barroca: ‘His expansive, dynamic, and explosive character, his fantasies, everything was unequivocally visible in his daily activity, in the precise movements of his hands, in his energetic modelling in clay, in the grinding of his teeth and the tension of his jaws and his knitted brows, the sign of his concentration and urgency in the execution of his ideas. That accumulation of energies might be compared with a harquebus just before it is fired, or with a falcon about to swoop on its prey. While working, he required a controlled state of excitement, and so he also encouraged his students to shake off their lethargy, to work with a certain rage, as though they were letting off steam after being told off for something. It might sound like a game, but for him it was like a matter of life and death. When I saw Fontana work, I became aware for the first time of the importance of the gestural in execution, something that gained general recognition years later when Art Informel and action painting became fashionable’ (P. Edelstein, in A. Giunta, ‘The War Years: Fontana in Argentina’, in Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold, exh. cat., New York, 2019, pp. 46-47).

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