A marvelous and luminous field of form and colour, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attesa, presents itself to the viewer as an alluring conceptual proposition of infinite time and space. Created in 1964 at the pinnacle of Fontana’s career, Concetto spaziale, Attesa is a superb articulation of the artist’s influential and innovative practice. With its singular long vertical slash, confidently sweeping across the canvas to leave a poetic yet resolutely essential and decisive cut, this work is firmly situated within Fontana’s tagli, or cut series, that many view as the as purest crystallization of the artist’s thematic and formal concerns. A fine example of the most of all of Fontana’s gestures, this work simultaneously holds a unique position within Fontana’s larger oeuvre. Entitled ‘ATTESA c’é un bel sole’ on the reverse (‘EXPECTATION there is a beautiful sun’), the work explicitly invokes the pictorial element of the sun and as such belongs to a small group of distinctive works that the artist produced as a poetic response to his sojourns in Venice and New York in 1961 where he became enraptured by the universe’s mystical, light-giving source.
However, Fontana’s intention is not a representative one. Rather, Fontana was interested in exploring his phenomenologically dynamic vision of space, both in terms of the cosmos and of the fourth dimension. Viewing the violation of the pictorial plane as a profoundly conceptual act, Fontana evokes the expressive painterly stroke only to empty it of all content. As the razor pierces and slices open the two-dimensional canvas, the most intense luminosity occurs at the point where the slightly curving planes at each side of the cut meet the slit of dark, seemingly infinite space at the centre. With this deceptively simple, yet peremptorily and highly concentrated conceptual act, Fontana introduced a radically new perspective into the realm of art ? redefining its parameters just as Gagarin had become the first man to view Earth from space through the window of his Vostok 1 capsule. Concetto spaziale, Attesa becomes an image of physical transformation, transcendence, and change. It not only opens up the picture plane to allow energy and light to pass through the canvas into the cosmos beyond, but also stands as a fervent existential response to man’s newfound ability to enter this space himself. As such, this work encapsulates the essence of Fontana’s pioneering Spatialist theories: ‘we want painting to escape from its frame and sculpture from its bell-jar. An expression of aerial art of a minute is as if it lasts a thousand years, an eternity’ (L. Fontana, ‘The Second Spatial Manifesto’, in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (eds.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Milan, 1998, p. 118).