THE FONTANA PHENOMENON: from Seaside to StudioLondon
Concetto Spaziale, 1960
ProvenanceUntil 2018, private collection, Milan.
LiteratureMarco Valsecchi, Ceramiche di Fontana, exh. cat. Galleria Pater, Milan, 1962, pl. 11.
ExhibitionsMilan, Galleria Pater, Ceramiche di Fontana, February 1962
“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 beautiful 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 experimented with both the size and shape of the Tagli and painted many of the canvases in bright monochrome colours. In the instances in which Fontana slashed an unpainted canvas, there is a particular affinity between the rawness of the surface and the primordial character of the gesture itself. Destruction and creation were bound together in these works—the same gesture that negated the canvas as a purely pictorial vehicle also opened up its sculptural possibilities.
With its matte terracotta surface marked by three of Fontana’s signature tagli, the present work perfectly complements the works on canvas, particularly the ones on unprimed canvas. At the same time, its circular form echoes the canvases of the artist’s Quanta series. Beginning in 1959, Fontana created constellations of small, monochrome polygonal and circular canvases slashed with tagli, which referenced the field of quantum physics, which seeks to explain the nature of the particles that make up matter and the forces with which they interact.
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