Lucio Fontana - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 12, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Finarte, Milan; Luisa Spagnoli, Rome; Giuseppe Colavito, Milan; Galeria Vismara, Milan; Bernard Cats, Brussels

  • Literature

    E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonnée, Milan, 2005, pp. 316 & 317 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Striking in both colour and form, the present lot is a significant work of Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale series, in which the artist aimed at changing the configuration and spatial characteristics of modernist painting. His curiosity about the advancement of science and technology during the 20th century inspired him to approach his artistic productions as a series of investigations in both method and medium, exploring the idea of painting in terms of its surface. Attempting to transcend the confines of the two-dimensional picture plane, Fontana envisioned a new approach to art, where his aesthetic would no longer rely on the notion of a painting being a flat surface, but rather a three dimensional object, emulating a third 'sculptural' dimension. Rich in colour, Fontana’s dark red Concetto spaziale, Attese is a pure and saturated monochrome, with three precise slits slicing through the picture plane. In his slashed canvases, Fontana re-invented the idea of a painting as an object free from all conventional associative meaning, opening up the concept of painting to new worlds of spatial possibilities (cf. Figure 1).

    The present work is a breathtaking example of compositional and chromatic dynamism; the hand-made slashes bristle with energy. Fontana’s luscious red work entwines both the ideas of a creative act – expanding the boundaries dictated by painting, whilst simultaneously breaking up the surface of the canvas – an act of destruction - in order to search for that which lies beyond. The three vertical slits are the fundamental tools, through which Fontana discovered a new perspective and understanding of the art of painting, opening up new dimensions for exploration amongst those of his generation and for many which came to follow.

    “I do not want to make a painting; I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art, tie in with the cosmos, as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture. With my innovation of the hole pierced through the canvas in repetitive formations, I have not attempted to decorate a surface, but on the contrary, I have tried to break its dimensional limitations. Beyond the perforations, a newly gained freedom of interpretations awaits us, but also, and just as inevitably, the end of art" (Lucio Fontana in Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Lucio Fontana, 1966)

    Made at a time when artistic innovations were considered as political actions, Fontana’s 'creative and destructive style is often associated with the cultural politics of his time, enacting a strike for freedom from tradition, a blow against the authority of the past. This concept is clearly mirrored in this work, which not only becomes a surface upon which he chooses to express his political views, but equally a surface upon which he visually distances himself from past painterly traditions, in search of a new aesthetic, encompassing the notion of a spatial context as its main objective. Fontana’s cuts go beyond the political actions or previous imposed artistic and cultural tradition. His deliberate and elegantly executed penetrations create an artistic language of their own – they are slits that respond to the imagination and pictorially provide a framework for depth, when contrasting the dark cuts with the vibrant red of the canvas. They are signs, benchmarks that point to new dimensions, exploring a new found space that goes beyond the perforations – a space that through its creation infiltrates the canvas and is vital to the work’s symbolic power.

    With its striking colour and graceful slashes, the work is a prime example illustrating Fontana’s fusion between painting and action, where brushstrokes have become replaced by slits and painted strokes become actions that are absorbed by the surface of the work. Along with the action painters such as Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein, Fontana equally has added the "action dimension" to his canvases. Building upon Pollock’s drips and Klein’s conducted paintings, Fontana adds a new level of "interaction", physically engaging with the surface in front of him, cleaving it several times, allowing the picture plane to record the actions and speed expressed by his sharp movements. Gerhard Richter’s large and small scale red abstract paintings become similarly distorted by the artist's hand, chiseling its way through the painted surface, revealing the influence of Fontana’s Tagli paintings upon a younger generation of artists. Both artists implement the use of sharp tools to either slash through the painted canvas or scrape through the layered and textured paint. While Richter reveals the countless coats of paint and colours that lay beyond the almost monochromatic red surface, Fontana’s slashes take on the notion of infinite space as part of the composition itself, adding both dimension and depth.

    "We do not intend to abolish art or stop life: we want paintings to come out of their frames, and sculptures from under their glass case. An aerial, artistic portrayal of a minute will last for thousands of years in eternity. To this end, using modern techniques, we will make artificial forms, marvelous rainbows, luminous words appear in the sky. We will transmit new types of art on the radio and television.

    At first, locked in their towers, artists represented themselves and their amazement, and they looked out across the landscape from their windows. After they came down from their castles to the city, breaking down walls and mixing with other men, they saw trees and objects at close quarters. Today, we spatial artists have escaped from our cities, we have broken the casing, our physical bark, and we have looked at ourselves from above, photographing the Earth from missiles in flight."
    (L. Fontana taken from R. Miracco, ed., Lucio Fontana: At the Roots of Spatialism, Rome, 2006, p. 31)


Concetto spaziale, Attese

Oil on canvas.
36 x 28 3/4 in. (92 x 73 cm).
Signed and titled “l. fontana ‘concetto spaziale' Attese” on the reverse. This work is registered in the Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonée under the number 60 T 25.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £524,000

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Evening Sale
13 October 2007, 4pm