Lucio Fontana and the appreciation of space
I always admired painter and sculptor Lucio Fontana but it was only during a recent visit to a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Aart in Paris, of more than 200 of his works, that I learned he was originally from Argentina (b.1899 in Rosario, Santa Fe), thus I am proud to say we are compatriots! He joins all those famous personages from my dear country, artists of the caliber of Perez Celis, Raul Soldi, Benito Quinquela Martin, or writers like Julio Cortazar and Jorge Luis Borges to name just a few. Fontana grew up between Argentina and Italy where he finally set up residence becoming a dominant figure on the postwar Italian art scene. He died in 1968 in his family home in Comabbio, north of Milan. He dedicated his entire career to changing our understanding and appreciation of space. As a sculptor forever trying out new media and as a theorist and leader of the Spatialist movement, he was very much part of the avant-garde, while always adopting a highly personal artistic viewpoint. In Fontana’s own words: “The work of art is not eternal. Man an his creations exist in time; when man finishes the eternal continues.”
Fontana is best known for his famous Tagli (Cuts), slashed canvasses whose combination of painting and sculpture made them icons of 20th century radical breakthrough. Fontana wrote: “Who knows how God is? So, I made holes… God is Nothing, but he’s everything, no?” An unrivaled sculptor, he brought steadfast elegance to his treatment of materials as varied as cement, ceramics, neon tubing, glass and metal. In all his works he uses light as a mean of accentuating space and form. A tenacious experimenter, Fontana created settings that disturb the way we sense things. He was propelled by the idea of art as a vital human activity and as persistent on gesture and intent as on the resulting object. However he produced highly sensual, vividly colored works whose extreme freedom sometimes brought them to the threshold of kitsch. His abundance of styles and media, together with his simultaneous resort to configuration and abstraction, have led to confusion about the actual progression of his career. The present retrospective that is the largest ever dedicated to his work, takes the visitor into a world of a bountiful, ingenious artist constantly confronting the notion of uniqueness, vogue and taste.
Spatialism is an art movement founded by Lucio Fontana in Milan in 1947 in which he grandiosely intended to synthesize color, sound, space, movement and time into a new type of art. The main ideas of the movement were anticipated in his Manifesto blanco (White Manifesto) published in Buenos Aires in 1946, where he spoke of a new “spatial” art in keeping with the spirit of the post-war age. It repudiated the illusory or “virtual” space of traditional easel painting and sought to unite art and science to project color and form into real space by the use of up-to-date techniques such as neon lighting and television. In 1947 Fontana created a “Black Spatial Environment”, a room painted black, which was considered to have foreshadowed Environment art. His stabbed and slashed canvasses (beginning 1949 and 1959 respectively) are also considered to embody Spatialism. His outlook was influential for he was the first European artist to truly promote the idea of art as gesture or performance, rather than as the creation of an enduring physical work.
The Lucio Fontana Retrospective will continue until August 24, 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Not to be missed!