The boldness, texture, composition and the lustrous twinkling of glitter mark Concetto spaziale out as an important coming of age for Fontana as he struggled to find a language which would transfer his linkage of the ancient Baroque with the futuristic age of space exploration. Concetto spaziale belongs to the group of so-called 'Barocchi' that Lucio Fontana created from 1954 until 1957, the date of this work. These Barocchi marked one of the most open embraces of an aesthetic which had long provided a touchstone for the artist, combining a sense of movement and of mysticism related to its use in churches throughout Italy during the Counter-reformation.
Fontana's relationship with the Baroque had begun early in his career, as was exemplified in his mosaic-covered sculptures and near-Futurist forms during the 1930s. It also played a crucial part in the development of 'Spatialism.' Fontana's almost architectural Ambienti often featured swirling, abstract forms as their centrepiece, not least his early installations involving ultraviolet lights that illuminated the three-dimensional objects hanging in an otherwise darkened space. These forms became central motifs in his paintings too, as is exemplified by Concetto spaziale and the other Barocchi. In this work, the yellow brushstrokes coalesce to form an image that teeters on the brink of the recognisable. There is the vaguest hint of a human figure, or of some strange nebula or constellation. However, the crucial characteristic conjured by these forms is that of movement. Movement, time passing, matter passing through space: these are the qualities that lay at the heart of Fontana's Spatialism, an aesthetic created that would be appropriate to the Space Age in which he was living. And it was this sense of movement that was so crucial to the Baroque, as Fontana himself explained:
'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, the images appear to abandon the plane and continue into space the movements they suggest. 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' (Lucio Fontana, Manifesto tecnico dello Spazialismo, trans. C. Damiano, 1951, reproduced in L. Massimo Barbero (ed.), Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Venice & New York, 2006, p. 229).
In Concetto spaziale, the flashes of yellow paint add a dynamism to a surface that is already filled with textural contrasts, with glitter and with holes punctured in the surface. There is a wealth and even opulence to the overall appearance of Concetto spaziale, yet Fontana's credentials as a protagonist of the Informel are paradoxically in evidence too, in the gestural application of the yellow paint and in the holes perforating the picture plane. These holes, which emphasise the three-dimensionality of the picture, introduce the notion of space to the very surface of Concetto spaziale while also bearing witness to Fontana's own gestures in repeatedly piercing the canvas, creating tiny pools of imperishable infinity surrounded by the canvas, thereby resulting in an artwork that, to paraphrase the First Spatial Manifesto, may not have been immortal yet was eternal.