THE FONTANA PHENOMENON: from Seaside to StudioLondon
Concetto Spaziale, 1959
ProvenanceAcquired from the artist ca. 1970
Sotheby’s, Milan, 29–30 November 2017, lot 114
“With the taglio I have invented a formula that I think I cannot perfect…I succeeded in giving those looking at my work a sense of spatial calm, of cosmic rigour, or serenity with regard to the infinite. Further than this I could not go.”—Lucio Fontana quoted in Pia Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 58
This striking ceramic Concetto Spaziale is one of a series of works Fontana made in Milan between 1958 and 1968. These works, which all consist of a surface that has been sliced once or multiple times, are collectively known as the Tagli (meaning cuts). Considered together, they are Fontana’s most extensive and varied group of works and they have come to be seen as emblematic of his gestural aesthetic.
Fontana first began puncturing the surface of paper or canvas in the late 1940s, blurring the distinction between two- and three-dimensionality. Recognising the importance of this innovation, he continued, through the 1950s and 1960s, to seek different ways of developing the hole as his signature gesture. The first Tagli were made in the late summer and early autumn of 1958. They comprised small, often diagonal incisions, composed in groups over unprimed canvases. During 1959 these tentative slits evolved into single, more decisive slashes, and soon thereafter into multiple slices, each cut was made with a single gesture using a sharp blade. Fontana also began to apply the gesture to ceramic surfaces in parallel with his canvases.
In the present work, executed in 1959, a single taglio penetrates the surface of a round terracotta platter painted black. The dramatic slash perforates the platter completely, revealing the space behind and beyond the surface as well as a glimpse of the terracotta itself. Indeed, for Fontana, opening up the picture plane and the space occupied by the viewer to the space that lies beyond was the ultimate goal of his tagli, and his earlier buchi (holes). Fontana understood these gestures and their result as penetrations into the limitless possibilities of a boundless universe, stating “I make a hole…and from there I enter into infinity.”
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