Executed in 1957, Concetto Spaziale is from the height of Lucio Fontana’s Gessi or ‘Chalks’ period, which extended from 1954 to 1958. The year 1957 was a time of fruitful artistic creation for Fontana when he was working on parallel strands of research simultaneously, notably his series of buchi or ‘Holes’, pietre or ‘Stones’, as well as his barocchi, inchiostri, carte and olii. Taking its title from the predominant material inspiring this series, Fontana’s gessi utilised traditional chalk, gypsum and pastel as in the case of the present work, to conceive his investigations into his Spatialist theory.
Emerging from the gestural black void in pastel is a vibrant red expanse that presents the actions of Fontana’s mark-making process and projects the forms farther into space. Fontana punctuates the surface with his characteristic bucchi, thereby opening up the work to the possibility of infinite and cosmic dimensions of space. In moving beyond the two-dimensions of the picture plane, Fontana allowed his materials to be integrated into space itself. The actuality of the gesture, this irrevocable sign of the work’s execution and its ultimate opening of space, presents the void created beyond the surface of the canvas, immortalises a fleeting moment for eternity. ‘I do not want to make a painting’, Fontana said, ‘I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art, tie in with the cosmos as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture’ (L. Fontana, quoted in J. van der Marck and E. Crispolti, La Connaissance, Brussels 1974, p. 7).
Fontana’s desire to create an art that remained relevant in this era of scientific discoveries is evident in the gestures employed to create Concetto Spaziale. For the artist, capturing movement in art was the last frontier and one that had only become recently possible in the twentieth century. As Fontana noted in his Manifesto Bianco, ‘art continues to develop itself in the direction of movement the evolution of man is a march towards movement developed in time and space’ (L. Fontana, Manifesto Bianco, 1946, in R. Fuchs, Lucio Fontana: la cultura dell’occhio, exh. cat., Castello di Riovli, Rivoli, 1986, p. 79).