'We have entered the space age, man has discovered the distances between earth and the planets, man's goal is to conquer them, man with his inventions of the last one hundred years has sped humanity to achieve the impossible - all this has influenced the artist's creative spirit'
(L. Fontana, quoted in E. Crispolti & R. Siliganto, Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Milan, 1998, p. 146).
'Art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal, we plan to separate art from matter, to separate the sense of the eternal from the concern with the immortal. And it doesn't matter to us if a gesture, once accomplished, lives for a second or a millennium, for we are convinced that, having accomplished it, it is eternal'
(The First Spatial Manifesto signed by L. Fontana, G. Kaisserlian, B. Joppolo, M. Milani, reproduced in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., 1998, pp. 117-118).
The unrivalled elegance of the gently curving incisions that migrate across the surface of Lucio Fontana's spectacular red Concetto spaziale, Attese are among the most graceful marks the artist ever made. The three incisions grow in length as they spread like ripples travelling across a mill pond and combined with the purity of the canvas's surface result in a work of exceptional beauty. Nestled into a canvas of sumptuous rich red with the seductive quality which recalls the evocative forms of the Baroque sculptor Bernini, these openings are not destructive slashes or cuts but instead are Fontana's response to the question that has obsessed every artist through the generations; how can art improve on what has gone before and continue to be relevant to the age in which it was created? Fontana's solution was to move away from using the canvas merely as a support for the medium of paint and instead incorporate it fully into the body of the work, thus opening up, both literally and figuratively, a whole new dimension of possibilities to further advance the course of art. The present work has been in the Minella family for over half a century and was originally a gift from the artist to the present owner's father, Signore Minella. He owned a florist's shop in the via Manzoni in Milan and counted Lucio Fontana as one of his customers. Signore Minella's shop was situated close to the influential Galleria del Naviglio and attracted many important Italian artists who would often stop by the flower shop on their way to and from the gallery. As well as owning the shop, Signore Minella also undertook private work in the gardens of his customers and it was after working in Fontana's garden in Comabbio that the artist gave Signore Minella the present work in heartfelt appreciation of all his efforts. The fact that such a remarkable painting has remained in the family for over half a century is testament to the affection in which it has been held and the strong relationship between the two men.
As the founder of the post-war Spatialist movement, Fontana was concerned with freeing artists from the constraints of artistic tradition. As the space age dawned and the world became dominated by the jet age, Fontana wanted to create art for a new era; art that would show the real space of the world. His solution was to break through the surface of the canvas and for the first time introduce a third dimension into the world of painting. Like portals to another dimension his incisions began to explore a hitherto unexplored world akin to the unchartered territories of the cosmos. Concetto spaziale, Attese is a perfect evocation of Fontana's objectives with its delicate cuts echoing the vastness of the universe. Behind each one, lies the darkness of an infinite space, full of possibilities and mystery. With deliberate flicks of the wrist Fontana produces his elegant incisions which literally open the canvas to new possibilities and interpretations. Enforcing the three-dimensional nature of the canvas, Fontana brings his earlier incarnation as a sculptor to the practice of painting, combining its different processes to forge a hybrid object that is no longer constrained by traditional classifications.
The importance of Fontana's background as a sculptor is clear in his decision to transform the canvas from a two-dimensional surface into a three-dimensional object. Furthermore, with his Concetto spaziale, Attese he is not only transforming the canvas but in addition, Fontana incorporates the physical act of cutting into the work so it becomes an important part of the artistic process. These two tangible forces come to be Fontana's medium and support and the graceful gesture becomes his equivalent of using the brush on the surface of the canvas. There is a degree of beauty in the precision with which Fontana arrives at the results; no mess, no hesitation, just cool, controlled movement produced with scientific clarity. The cleanliness of the act bringing about an almost religious purity.
Fontana's sublimely beautiful Concetto spaziale, Attese is a triumphal exploration of the totality of artistic practice. In Fontana's skilled hands, the canvas is opened up to extraordinary new depths of meaning and beauty. There are no distractions; instead Fotanta has given us something that is emphatic, lending it a palpable sense of honesty and truth. The holistic nature of this luxurious red canvas succeeds in demonstrating the timeless beauty of art, fulfilling the dreams that Fontana had prophesied nearly two decades earlier when he laid the foundations for the Spatialist Movement, as he said at the time, 'Art is eternal, but it cannot be immortal,' the First Spatial Manifesto had declared, 'We plan to separate art from matter, to separate the sense of the eternal from the concern with the immortal. And it doesn't matter to us if a gesture, once accomplished, lives for a second or a millennium, for we are convinced that, having accomplished it, it is eternal' (signed by L. Fontana, G. Kaisserlian, B. Joppolo, M. Milani, reproduced in E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh.cat., 1998, pp. 117-18). SJ