'When I began using the 'stones' I wanted to see if I could move forward... I thought that with the stones, the light would flow better - that it would create more the effect of movement' (L. Fontana quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., London, 1999, p. 17).
An outstanding and groundbreaking example of Fontana's pioneering approach to Conceptual Art, Concetto spaziale, Forma, executed in 1958, is a direct pre-cursor to his most celebrated series of paintings, the Venezie cycle of 1961. Created in earthy, atmospheric tones, the work prefigures the artist's opulent Concetto spaziale, Festa sul Canal Grande (1961) from the Venezie series. At 150 by 150 centimeters, Concetto spaziale, Forma lends its unprecedented and heroic scale directly to all of the paintings in the Venezie series. Indeed the composition that Fontana pioneered in Concetto spaziale, Forma, which implies a search for infinity, translates into the pictorial conceit of Concetto spaziale, Festa sul Canal Grande, with its rounded curves traversing the centre of the painting recalling the myriad canalways of the golden city. Stretched out across the width of this expansive canvas, the shadowy nebulae-like shape hovers in an atmospheric spatial void. Fontana created this sense of depth by laying down one piece of canvas on top of another. Both soaked in aniline dye, the slight difference in tone between the two creates an illusion of depth and an almost imperceptible halo surrounding the contours of the central form. Laid out across the breadth of this celestial body are a dozen small pieces of white glass as well as a pair of dark green, almost black glass fragments. This was one of the first times that Fontana had ever combined buchi (holes) and pietri (stones) with a dense layering of colour on canvas. Of the two other works in this small group of inchiostri realised on this scale, one is held within the permanent collection of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.
1958 was a groundbreaking year for conceptual art, one that saw Yves Klein experimenting with the possibilities of the monochrome as a transcendental object and Piero Manzoni with the autonomous creation of an artwork in his series of achromes. For Fontana it was a year that marked his rise to international acclaim following the success of his aniline infused works in the XXIX Venice Biennale. At the Biennale, Fontana was given a sizeable room in the central pavilion and for this occasion he installed around thirty works from his early practice in the 1930s and around a dozen new works including pastels and inks. Alloway later recalled that the room was filled with some of 'the most grave and beautiful works' (L. Alloway quoted in S. Whitfield (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999, p. 30). The rich aesthetic of his earlier production stood in stark contrast to the newly articulated conceptual works in aniline ink. Buoyed by the approbation he received, Fontana was determined to push forward with his 'spatialist' investigations. It was soon after that he developed his first 'taglie' (cut) upon the same aniline, inky canvas as the present work. As Alloway once suggested, 'what began as a gesture' during this key moment 'was continued and extended as a basic part of Fontana's oeuvre' (L. Alloway quoted in S. Whitfield (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1999, p. 30). In doing so, the artist was aspiring towards and seeking to mirror the dramatic evolutions in space travel occurring as part of the international space race.
In Concetto spaziale, Forma, Fontana introduces a new sculptural
precedent in his work, playing with surface texture though his use of
collage and presenting a stochastic relief with the use of stones. These elements were part of the artist's intention to open up the surface of the canvas to a multi-dimensional play of light, colour and texture. 'When I began using the 'stones,' Fontana once explained, 'I wanted to see if I could move forward... I thought that with the stones, the light would flow better - that it would create more the effect of movement' (L. Fontana, 1967, quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. London, 1999, p. 17). In Concetto spaziale, Forma, not only does the surface of the work take on a new tactile and three-dimensional quality, but it also sees Fontana seeking the fourth dimension, looking through each hole into the infinite space beyond.
In creating each hole, Fontana forcefully breached the integrity of the canvas using a sharp implement to puncture directly through the surface of the work. These ruptures, the quintessence of Fontana's practice, lend Concetto spaziale, Forma a remarkable illusion of space and unbounded depth. As the artist once explained, 'I make a hole in this canvas, which was the basis of all art and I have created an infinite dimension... Einstein's discovery within the cosmos is of the dimension opening on the infinite, without an end. So, having already first, second and third [pictorial] planes, what must I do to go beyond? I make a hole in the canvas and the infinite comes through, light comes through, there is no need to paint' (L. Fontana quoted in E. Crispolti, 'Spatialism and Informel: The Fifties,' E. Crispolti & R. Siligato (eds.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Milan, 1998, p. 146).
For Fontana, the birth of the Space Age rendered all matter and art objects, whether painting or sculpture, obsolete. He believed that in this new age, mankind would regain a new spiritual awareness that would ultimately transcend all materialist thinking. For him, the purpose of artistic practice should be radically revised to serve this end. As he concluded, 'as a painter, while working on one of my perforated canvases I do not want to make a painting... I want to open up space, create a new dimension for art... 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' (L. Fontana quoted in J. van der Marck and E. Crispolti, Fontana, Brussels 1974, p. 7).
Concetto spaziale, Forma, can be understood in the context of the majestic Relief éponges bleu undertaken by Yves Klein and the great Achrome carried out by Piero Manzoni during the same period. Together they represent the moment that artists began to privilege the concept over composition, using the realised work as a vehicle for their ideas. Concetto spaziale, Forma marks the beginning of Fontana's great decade from 1958-1968, which saw him leave behind Art Informel in favour of the conceptual work that was to become his hallmark. Over the course of this period he transformed the entire artistic landscape and Concetto spaziale, Forma can be understood as the turning point in this radical trajectory.
Concetto spaziale, Forma
Aniline, canvas collage, coloured glass on canvas
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Signed 'L. Fontana' (lower right); signed, titled and dated '1958 Lucio Fontana "Concetto spaziale" Forma "Forma X"' (on the reverse)
Lucio Fontana , 1950s, Paintings, Italy, Post War, abstract
Paris, Galerie Karsten Greve, Lucio Fontana. Peintures et sculptures, 1989-1990 (illustrated in colour, pp. 34-35).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
59 1/8 x 59 1/8in. (150 x 150cm.)
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo generale, vol. I, Milan 1986, no. 58 I 64 (illustrated, p. 225).
Brera mai vista: Due quadri di Lucio Fontana: Concetti spaziali. Forme, 1957, exh. cat., Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, 2005 (illustrated, p. 20).
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana: Catalogo ragionato di sculture, dipinti, ambientazioni, vol. I, Milan 2006, no. 58 I 64 (illustrated, p. 383).
Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, exh. cat., Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, 2006 (illustrated in colour, p. 34).
Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich.
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich.
Private Collection, Cologne.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.