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Lucio Fontana (1899 – 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1964-65. Estimate 700,000900,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby’s.

signed, titled and inscribed oggi è il 21 aprile domani il 22… on the reverse, waterpaint on canvas, 38 by 55.2cm.; 15 by 21 3/4 in. Executed in 1964-65.

AUTHENTIFICATION: This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under the number 1401/18 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner in the 1960s
Thence by descent to the present owner

LITTERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Vol II, Milan 1986, p. 547, no. 64-65 T 8, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo Ragionato di Sculture, Dipinti, Ambientazioni, Vol II, Milan 2006, p. 733, no. 64-65 T 8, illustrated

Notes: Executed between 1964 and 1965, Concetto Spaziale, Attese is a magnificent example of Lucio Fontana’s radical tagli – his most iconic artistic contribution to the post-war era.  Supreme elegance, simplicity and vitality define the present work; an eloquent choreography of six cuts dance across a deep-red monochrome picture plane. Following the publication of his treatise, ‘Manfesto Bianco’ in 1946, Fontana’s concept of Spatialism sparked a unique dialogue with the ‘dimensionality’ of painting. Not only did Fontana invite three dimensions into the traditionally flat canvas ground, but his rupture of the picture plane and revelation of a blackened void beyond, implored a metaphysical dialogue with the fourth dimension and its enigmatic comingling of both time and space. A fascination with the unknowable void and concept of energy as an invisible force are summated by the mesmerising effect of Fontana’s defined slashes. Having punctured the flat surface with a simple knife flick, he looked to emphasise space without physical boundaries. In Concetto Spaziale, Attese, the very deliberate distance and meter between each cut deliver Fontana’s inquiry with remarkable grace and seductive chromatic power.

Disclosing a space beyond the two dimensional picture plane guided Fontana’s artistic intent. Significantly, it was humankind’s exploration into space that would transform his practice: tangibility of the universe and scientific discovery of infinity was the catalyst for extending the scope of his sculptural/painterly experimentation. Reflective of a zeal for scientific advancement, Fontana’s departure from traditional illusionism transformed the canvas into a conduit and vehicle for an intimation of an inscrutable fourth dimension. Nonetheless, though Fontana pioneered a dialogue that echoed advances in technology and the contemporaneous progress of space exploration – an impetus attuned to the utopian tenets of Futurism – his practice also looked back towards the most traditional remit of Western art history, namely its grounding in the Catholic Church.

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Peter Paul Rubens The Descent from the Cross, 1611-14 Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Antwerp Cathedral Image: © Bridgeman Images

The chemistry between the red tableau and the six black slashes provokes a multitude of emotive suggestions that range from love and passion to violence and danger. Indeed, besides the lyricism of their formal appearance, these black arching cuts incised into red canvas flesh elicit a tenably visceral reading. Fontana’s is thus a wounded canvas that in turn represents a Modernist echo of the wounds of Christ on the cross. Significantly, much like the art of the past in its deliverance of the message of salvation, in Fontana’s work, it is only by enacting violence upon an unblemished surface and sacrificing the possibility of representational illusion that an intimation of an unknown realm can be attained. Marking a unique clash of the unequivocally traditional with the unequivocally progressive, the Concetto Spaziali collapse past, present and future within the slender abyss of each cut. Progenitor of the most radical gesture of the post-war era, Lucio Fontana transformed painting into an event horizon, a blinding conceptual and aesthetic point of no return.

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Otto Piene, Flower of Orange Fire, 1967. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence Artwork: © DACS 2014.

Sotheby’s. The Italian Sale, Londres | 17 oct. 2014, 06:00 PM