THE FONTANA PHENOMENON: from Seaside to StudioLondon
Concetto Spaziale, 1962–63
Bought directly from Fontana by Emilio Scanavino, Milan;
Archivio Scanavino, Milan
A golden ceramic orb punctuated with three of Fontana’s signature buchi (holes), the present work, executed in 1962–63, hearkens back to the artist's series of Nature, created between 1959 and 1960. Moulded and shaped from terracotta into organic spheres bearing violent gouges and raw clefts, Fontana executed forty-four monumental Nature of which thirty-three were cast in bronze. In subsequent years, Fontana created more intimately scaled works like this one which resonate with the same constellation of ideas.
Produced during an epoch defined by the so-called Space Race, these works contend with the boundless dimensions of a universe that is simultaneously billions of years old, yet newly discovered by humankind. With their spherical, planetary composition, punctured like the surface of the moon, these sculptures evoke the mysterious and infinite dimensions of space. Describing his inspiration for the Nature, which likewise apply here, Fontana explained: “I was thinking of those worlds, of the moon with these...holes, this terrible silence that causes anguish, and the astronauts in a new world. And so...in the artist’s fantasy...these immense things have been there for billions of years...man arrives, in mortal silence, in this anguish, and leaves a vital sign of his arrival...they were these still forms with a sign of wanting to make inert matter live, weren’t they?” In rupturing his sculptures to leave a deep, hollow chasm of vast and empty space, Fontana addresses this sense of “anguish” or anxiety at treading the unknown, uncertain depths of the cosmos.
At the same time, works like this one anticipate Fontana’s monumental series of egg-shaped canvases, the Fine di Dio of 1963–64. Emblematic of fecundity yet nonetheless riven by external forces, the present work like those in the Fine di Dio series is both pregnant and ripped in two, fertile yet ravaged by humanity’s newly discovered place in an absolutely vast and indifferent universe. Utterly singular and unlike anything before or since, these two series, and the present work, which they bookend, give bold corporeal form to the existentially fraught human condition at the dawn of a new cosmic age.
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