'Lunedì vado a Venezia per controllare i vandalismi alla mia sala.'
It was Fontana's habit to scrawl his little thoughts and sentences on the reverse of his most famous series of works, the Concetti spaziali: Attese, or 'Expectations'. Some of these would record a small fact, a nice phone call or a friend while others have an almost haiku-like poetry to them. It was only rarely, however, that Fontana recorded any valuable biographical information on these works. On Concetto spaziale: Attese, executed in the last year of Fontana's life, the above sentence is a testimony to his participation in the XXXIVth Venice Biennale in 1968, translating as: 'On Monday I am going to Venice to check the vandalisms done to my room'. Specifically for that exhibition, Fontana had created an Ambiente spaziale, a spatial environment consisting essentially of black painted canvas, luminous paint and some light. This was one of the two final Ambientazioni that Fontana created, and as can be seen from the inscription on Concetto spaziale: Attese, he was not at all happy with its installation-- a perfectionist to the last.
It is not surprising that Fontana chose his Attese to record the minutiae of his life, as they had become his most iconic and recognised works, inseparable from the artist. Concetto spaziale: Attese is the perfect example of this. The elegant, vertical dark slashes contrast sharply with their dark background, lending this work an elegant, almost calligraphic feel. At the same time, this contrast serves to emphasise the point of the work itself.
It is not merely the cut which affords the viewer a new perspective, but also the blank, unfigurative canvas. Fontana does not prescribe an interpretation, does not impose a meaning on the viewer through the use of illustration or figuration. Instead, in a canvas as blank as those of Yves Klein or Piero Manzoni, he insures that the sole focus of the work is the puncturing of the canvas, the forceful rupture of the traditional painter's support. The connections between the art of Klein, Manzoni and Fontana were strong. The unique visual idioms of these three artists are linked, not least in their belief in the role of the artist. Although at first glance, all three produced works which can be seen and interpreted as cynical, and even violent, dismissals on traditional art, these three artists were linked through their separate but nonetheless comparable mystic views of the universe, and of the role of the artist. The blank canvases which featured in the oeuvres of all three marked an attempt to create an accessible art, an art unfettered by cultural signifiers and therefore open to the understanding of any viewer.
Within this context of the artist presaging a new understanding of the world, a new view, the openings in the canvas are the doorways to a new form of art, a new form of understanding:
'Art is one of the manifestations of man's intelligence, no one can define its signs - its limits, motives, needs. Holes: not a revolution simply intelligence making art.
'Spatial artists permit the individual to use his imagination, they free the individual to use his imagination, they free the individual from pictorial and propagandistic rhetoric' (L. Fontana, 1952, quoted in exh. cat., Lucio Fontana, Rome and Milan, 1998, p.146).
The canvas, so long the domain of the two-dimensional representation, has had its three dimensional existence underlined and has become almost sculptural by implication. In the same way that Man had broken free of the confines of gravity and of Earth, Fontana managed to break free from the confines of representation. Just as satellites furnished mankind with new fresh views of the Earth from space, this is a new fresh view of art. The play with the various traditional dimensions involved in art are accentuated by Fontana's gesture in cutting the canvas. This act has been recorded in perpetuity, a fourth dimension to this work, a glaring record of the moment that Fontana took his blade to the work.
Fontana saw himself as one of the few artists genuinely keeping track with the advances of the world, so contemporary as to be constantly ushering in the future. His art was a part of the gradual realisation and revelation that he considered essential not merely to the evolution of art, but also to the evolution of mankind.
Fontana's cuts are a part of this same development, freeing the viewer's mind from the traditional bounds and limitations, allowing us to unglue ourselves and gradually approach his 'completely new world' of the future.