Creation from Destruction : Frieze Masters 2020London
Spatial Concept, Waiting, 1960
Galleria Arco d’Alibert, Rome,
Paolo Nazzaro, Rome,
Bernard Cats, Brussels,
From 2005, private collection.
LiteratureEnrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Milan, 1986, vol. 1, no. 60 T 117, illustrated p. 333.
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato de Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Milan, 2006, vol. 1, no. 60 T 117, illustrated p. 502.
ExhibitionsRome, Palazzo delle esposizioni, X Quadriennale Nazionale D’Arte 2. Situazione dell’arte non figurative, 31 January–18 March 1973.
“My art is directed towards this purity, it is based on the philosophy of nothingness, a nothingness that does not imply destruction, but a nothingness of creation…”—Lucio Fontana
Spanning over a metre in width, Spatial Concept, Waiting (1960) is an exceptional early example of Lucio Fontana’s signature tagli (cuts), which the artist began making in late 1958 and would dominate the triumphant final decade of his practice. Fontana’s tagli were philosophical gestures, creative rather than destructive: in cutting the canvas open, Fontana transcended centuries of art history bound by the two-dimensionality of the picture plane to reveal the infinity of space beyond, an enigmatic fourth dimension in which he saw the limitless future of humankind in the 'spatial era.' Having first pierced the canvas with buchi (holes) in 1954, Fontana spent some years experimenting with surface ornamentation, painting with thick impastos and often embedding glass fragments and glitter into his canvases, before arriving at the serene austerity of the monochrome tagli, truly the apex of his audacious, ever evolving formal vocabulary. With its hypnotically pure white surface sliced with a quartet of vertical incisions, the present work is among the earliest examples of this ground-breaking series. Creating a rhythmic cascade of gliding movement, the gently angled cuts of Spatial Concept, Waiting send ripples of energy through and beyond the work’s surface, transforming it from a static, inert pictorial surface into a dynamic object that interacts and encompasses the space surrounding it—it is neither painting nor sculpture, but a 'Spatial Concept'. The cuts alternate in a paired dance between longer and shorter lengths, brought to life by their supple, curving motion and rhythmic arrangement. This at once balletic and calligraphic arrangement exemplifies the elegance with which Fontana gave visual realisation to his conceptual innovation.
Although Fontana experimented with a variety of colours for his monochrome tagli, he concluded that white was the ultimate hue to attain the sense of limitless, infinite space and radiant luminosity that he wanted to convey with these works. White, the artist said, is the “purest colour, the least complicated, the easiest to understand”, that which most immediately and most successfully conveyed the “pure simplicity” and the “pure philosophy” which preoccupied him in the last years of his career (quoted in Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, Milan, 2006, vol. 1, p. 79). Indeed, towards the end of his life, Fontana was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1966 Venice Biennale for an installation of twenty white canvases, each with a single vertical incision slashing through their centres. Potent in their simplicity, the pristine white contrasts with the abyss of blackness beneath the slash, which became a “ground zero” of previously unimagined freedoms, ideas, and potentials in the post-war era. Works like the present one, with their slashed surfaces defying the limitations of matter and opening up a fourth dimension, were to Fontana’s way of thinking united in spirit with the astronauts of the era making bold new steps into space; both offer an optimistic vision of man’s role in the unfolding infinity of the universe. “When I sit down to contemplate one of my cuts, I sense all at once an enlargement of the spirit,” Fontana said. “I feel like a man freed from the shackles of matter, a man at one with the immensity of the present and of the future’ (quoted in Luca Massimo Barbero, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006, p. 23).
Fontana added the subtitle 'Attese', meaning 'expectation' or 'hope', to many of his tagli. By adding this word to his standard title of 'Concetto Spaziale', Fontana imbues the boundless infinity he envisaged beyond the thin, elegant chasms of darkness created by his lacerations in the canvas with a sense of buoyancy and freedom. This realm is at once the immeasurable space beyond earth and the limitless capacity of the human mind and imagination. By opening up and redefining the possibilities of art itself, Fontana sought to unlock the parameters of human consciousness, liberating what had been stifled by conventional society. As if to illustrate this point, Fontana has inscribed on the back of Spatial Concept, Waiting the nonsensical equation '1+1-XYZZA', a playful yet potent reminder of the limitless possibility he felt these Attese possessed.
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