The sense of pristine order and elegance in Concetto spaziale, Attese, executed in 1966, is perfectly suited to the Spatialism that engendered it. Lucio Fontana, the great pioneer of this movement, was an heir of the Futurists, obsessed with the new potential offered by the advances in technology. In particular, the Space Age, barely conceivable in the 1940s when Fontana's Spatialist movement first came into shape, opened whole new avenues to him. Even then, the Manifesto Blanco, which was compiled largely under Fontana's direction, had declared that 'We live in the mechanical age. Painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have a reason to exist' (The Manifesto Blanco, B. Arias, H. Cazeneuve & M. Fridman, Buenos Aires, 1946). Accordingly, when Fontana first began piercing the canvas of his works he appeared to combine the 'opening' of the two dimensions with an act that violently proclaimed the redundancy of the canvas itself.
This act of piercing the canvas very soon developed into something far more profound: rather than merely desecrating the support that had been traditionally associated with Western painting for centuries, Fontana created a visual idiom that embraced the canvas. The slashes, as opposed to the holes that had earlier perforated many of his works, are filled with a simple and confident beauty. They carry an almost draughtsmanlike assurance. The holes in Concetto spaziale, Attese are not the result of violence, but of surgery and of art.
The slashes in the canvas are almost symbolic. They open up the world behind the canvas, but in doing so, they echo the advances that were changing man's very perception of the world, and the perspective from which he saw it. Now man had flown in space, had ripped himself away from the bounds of the atmosphere and could see the globe from a new angle, completely detached. Even before space flight, the Second Spatial Manifesto had invoked this historic shift, this new physical possibility that man was afforded:
'If the artist, locked in his tower, once represented himself and his astonishment and saw the landscape through his windows and then, having come down from the castles into the cities, he mixed with other men and saw from close-up the trees and the objects, now, today, we spatial artists have escaped from the cities, we have shattered our shell, our physical crust, and we have looked at ourselves from above, photographing the earth from rockets in flight' (1948, reproduced in Lucio Fontana, ed. Enrico Crispolti & Rosella Siligato, Milan, 1998, p.118)
This idea of viewing the world from above would ultimately result in Fontana's Gordian Knot solution to the limitations of art and representation, and this is nowhere as explicit as in the Attese. Fontana, by slashing the canvas, by bringing our awareness to its nature as a three-dimensional object, not a flat canvas, prompts a similar new perspective on the nature of art. He has, with deft simplicity, ripped the umbilical cord that ties art to the canvas, and this rip is itself manifest on the canvas. By opening up the canvas, Fontana puts us in a new position relative to the picture, and this is the artistic equivalent to seeing the world from the air, or rather, from Space. We are invited to look at Concetto spaziale, Attese and thus to see the world itself in a fresh light afterwards.
The straightness and order in the vertical lines of Concetto spaziale, Attese, which are accentuated by the single diagonal, give a sense of reason and control that relates more to science than to art. Indeed, Concetto spaziale, Attese is a simple and aesthetically absorbing blueprint for Spatialism, with the rhythm of the lines mimicking the regularity and order of scientific diagrams or graphs. In this simple way, Fontana has managed to condense the atmosphere of the Space Age into a striking image that reeks of the sleekness of the hi-tech world. This is truly art for the future, unencumbered by any outmoded style or any vain attempt to capture in a redundant manner an image of the world around the artist.