Fontana + The GothicNew York
Concetto Spaziale (Spatial Concept), 1962
Provenancewith Galerie Burèn, Stockholm,
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures, Sculptures et Environnements Spatiaux, Brussels 1974, II, p. 118, no. 62 O 44, illustrated.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, I, p. 399, no. 62 O 44, illustrated.
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Milan 2006, II, p. 583, no. 62 O 44, illustrated.
ExhibitionsFlorence, Galleria d'Arte Frediano Farsetti, Firenze-New York. Rinascimento e Modernità. Da Luca Signorelli a Andy Warhol, 30 September–10 December 2011, cat. no. 31, illustrated.
“Einstein’s discovery of the cosmos is the infinite dimension, without end. And here we have the foreground, middleground and background, what do I have to do to go further? I make a hole, infinity passes through it, light passes through it…everyone thought I wanted to destroy; but it is not true, I have constructed.”—Lucio Fontana
With a single crevice gouging through its pink surface, Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept, 1962, belongs to the artist’s remarkable Olii series, which dominated Fontana’s practice from the late 1950s until his death in 1968. These boldly coloured monochrome canvases coarsely penetrated by one or many holes offered a distinctive counterpoint to Fontana’s Tagli paintings of the same period, with their crisply minimalist, almost surgical slices which betray no hint of the artist’s hand. The Olii, by contrast, offer a more raw and primitive perspective on Fontana’s effort to disrupt the pictorial plane in search of a fully spatialist understanding of art. Organic and visceral, a gaping buco or “hole” dominates the present canvas. The perforation seems to erupt through the pink paint surface, irregular daubs of impasto overflowing its edges. Circles and loops incised into the pictorial surface spiral around the wound-like hole, evoking an electric frenzy of energy emanating from the central explosion.
Central to Fontana’s artistic practice was the search for a new visual language that expressed both the exhilaration and the existential anxiety of the modern age. "The man of today,” Fontana once noted, “is too lost in a dimension that is immense for him, it is too oppressed by the triumphs of science, is too dismayed by the inventions that follow one after the other, to recognise himself in figurative painting. What is wanted is an absolutely new language” (quoted in A. White, Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 2011, p. 260). By 1962, when the present work was executed, mankind has achieved previously unimaginable advances in science and technology, sending first satellites and then cosmonauts into space. Man’s extraordinary rupture of the fabric of the universe seems echoed in Fontana’s buco, while the trembling lines quivering around this central void reflect the disruptive orbit of man in space as well as the uncertain trajectory of humanity in this great unknown. Indeed, as Fontana once noted of the striking colours in which he rendered his Olii, "The colour of the grounds of these canvases is a bit loud, [indicating] the restlessness of contemporary Man. The subtle tracing, on the other hand, is the walk of Man in space, his dismay and fear of getting lost; the slash, finally, is a sudden cry of pain, the final gesture of anxiety that has already become unbearable” (quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p, 90).
At the same time, the pink surface of the canvas is powerfully suggestive of the human flesh, lending further layers of symbolism to the work. Italian paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque in which the wounded Christ is suspended in anguish upon the cross charge the painting with implicit narratives of suffering and salvation. Moreover, Fontana himself one described the colour he used in his pink Olii in Milanese dialect as “la rosa di mutand di don”, meaning the pink of ladies’ underwear (quoted in P. Gottschaller, Lucio Fontana: The Artist’s Materials, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 94). This allusion to female sexuality prompts a carnal interpretation of the fissure at the centre of the canvas, hinting at the artist abstractly reimagining, for example, Gustave Courbet’s iconic L’Origine du monde (1866, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). At once conjuring ideas around the Big Bang Theory, Christ’s agony, and the generative power of woman, Fontana’s Spatial Concept offers a rich and restless meditation on the potent forces that inexorably shape the very world.
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