Lucio Fontana created Concetto spaziale, Attese in 1960; it therefore dates from shortly after he had begun to exhibit his Tagli, or 'cuts', the works he had been developing over the first few years, since his first incursions with slash-like marks incised into paper. Within a short time, as Concetto spaziale, Attese demonstrates, Fontana had managed to finesse an elegant pictorial language incorporating the cuts that were such a trailblazing innovation: he has pared away most hints of the figurative, instead presenting the viewer with a white canvas and three arcing incisions. These are made all the more dramatic in part because of their contrast with the white: each one is a chasm of darkness, made all the more impressive through Fontana's use of dark tape behind the holes, a deft technique that adds to their emphasis.
There is a visual assonance to the three crescent-like cuts in Concetto spaziale, Attese, which recall inverted images of light creeping around the edge of another world or moon. They appear like three edges of an eclipse, the coronas viewed in negative, or like the traces in the sky seared by celestial objects moving at speed such as meteorites. They recall segments of the loops of various objects, say the planetary bodies rotating around our sun.
There is a dance-like progression to the cuts in Concetto spaziale, Attese which recalls Fontana's own balletic movements in slicing through the prepared canvas in order to gain the precise desired effect. This was the result of contemplation and preparation. Even the white canvas itself would have been prepared deliberately using 'waterpaint', which means that there is little trace of brushstrokes. Instead, the canvas serves as a tabula rasa which echoes the works of Fontana's compatriot, Piero Manzoni; here, the near-vertical cuts serve as a visual counterpoint to Manzoni's pleated Achromes. However, this reference appears almost deliberate in its opposition. Where Manzoni was forcing the viewer's attention to the sheer materiality of the picture and the picture plane, allowing the kaolin-soaked canvas to dry according to the pull of nature, gravity and chance, thus achieving a form of universal, self-creating artwork, Fontana has introduced the void instead. Where pleats would have been is instead an absence, introducing the Immaterial, and the Infinite.
Fontana's dialogue with materiality and the Immaterial was at its apogee around 1960. His Attese had in part emerged as a response to his excitement at Man's leap into Space - for it was only a few years earlier that the USSR had succeeded in sending Sputnik into a low orbit. Man had finally, albeit by proxy, touched the endlessness that is the cosmos, the space that surrounds our tiny globe. Such a development, for Fontana, the pioneer of Spatialism, was beyond momentous. He was aiming to create a new art for his new age of potential space travel, of rockets and instant media. Accordingly, he was abandoning the older forms of art. The space that is opened up in Concetto spaziale, Attese is a sliver of that same cosmos that was now so tantalisingly within mankind's reach. At the same time, after a few years, Fontana appears to have combined his interest in creating serene works such as Concetto spaziale, Attese, which appear to celebrate the void and Man's access to it, with an interest in the rock that mankind was leaving behind - and crucially, still inhabiting. Accordingly, he was creating such sculptures as his Nature, which often comprised globe-like globular objects penetrated by the artist. Fontana had also embarked upon his Olii, paintings in which there were incisions, yet these were thrust into relief by a complex interplay with an almost glutinous surface texture, which itself was often incised with markings that emphasised the thickness of the paint.
In contrast to the Olii, which deliberately bear the traces of a number of direct interventions on the part of the artist himself, in Concetto spaziale, Attese the surface is almost pristine - save the three seemingly-effortless cuts that puncture and punctuate the canvas. In a sense, Fontana appears to have been cutting the umbilical chord that ties man to material, illustrating the end of so many traditional concepts. For instance, soon, it would no longer to be taken for granted that Man existed solely on the Earth; instead, people would break free of the atmosphere, as is the case today, when a tiny fraction of the population stays on the International Space Station. For Fontana, in slashing the canvas, he was addressing the way that it had been taken for granted as the support for Western painting over the last centuries. He was elegantly and concisely throwing out some of the a priori concepts that provided so much of the bedrock of art and of existence. This sentiment, which underpins the vivid gashes of darkness in the surface of Concetto spaziale, Attese, would be reflected in one of Fontana's own statements:
'The fact that I anticipated, that I said 'Man in the cosmos is in the cosmos in all its new dimensions,' and the Manifesto spaziale talks about a social transformation that will be indispensible, because we can already see that the world is already joining together, we are already going to other planets... it means that it will also change socially. I can no longer accept the things man already accepted on the earth, which at that time, was everything. Vice versa, man in the cosmos is in space in all its dimensions' (Fontana, quoted in G. Celant, Lucio Fontana: Ambienti Spaziali: Architecture Art Environments, exh. cat., New York, 2012, p. 316).