Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese. Photo Sotheby"s
signed, titled and inscribed on the reverse 1+1 - 3344A on the reverse; waterpaint on canvas; 65 by 50cm. 25 1/2 by 19 5/8 in. Executed in 1961. Estimate 700,000-900,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 825,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Private Collection, Milan
Studio Casoli, Milan
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1990s
EXHIBITED: Frankfurt, Kunsthalle, Lucio Fontana - Retrospektive, 1996, no. 141
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, pp.128-129, no. 61 T 49, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. II, p. 434, no. 61 T 49, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. II, p. 619, no. 61 T 49, illustrated
NOTE: "The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce this canvas, which is the basis of all arts and I have created an infinite dimension, an x which for me is the basis for all Contemporary Art" (The artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana, Venice/ New York, 2006, p. 19) Lucio Fontana's stunning Concetto Spaziale, Attesa from 1961 is an elegantly sublime archetype of the artist's legendary tagli works. The sharp contrast of the silken white surface with the blackness of the single vertical black slashes epitomises Erika Billeter's statement that: "Lucio Fontana... challenges the history of painting. With one bold stroke he pierces the canvas and tears it to shreds. Through this action he declares before the entire world that the canvas is no longer a pictorial vehicle and asserts that easel painting, a constant in art heretofore, is called into question. Implied in this gesture is both the termination of a five-hundred year evolution in Western painting and a new beginning, for destruction carries innovation in its wake" (Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana 1899-1968: A Retrospective, 1977, p. 13). When in 1966 Fontana exhibited at the Venice Biennale and won the Grand Prize for a Painter, he recreated an Ambiente Spaziale with a white monumental single slash, which further evinces the importance of the colour white in his oeuvre and the incredible aesthetic impact of the single taglio.
Compositionally pure and mesmerising in its beauty, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa embodies the artist's revolutionary Spatialist theory while engendering a unique dialogue between colour and form. The white monochrome field of the canvas is an expanse of serenity, harnessing enduring and powerful connotations of innocence and purity. It also frames the white of light and heat; a beam of white light holds within it the full spectrum of colour, revealed when it is refracted through an optical prism; and white has often symbolised technology and the future, particularly in the decades following the Second World War. The alluring white arena of Concetto Spaziale, Attesa is ablaze with energy, acting as apt parallel to Fontana's idea of the artist as the source of creative energy, and provides the perfect setting for his conception of pure space.
The elegantly vigorous and lyrically slender slash simultaneously evinces spontaneity and control, choreographed under the deft aegis of Fontana's blade into a meditating space across the canvas. Here the artist discards conventional reverence for the canvas and his strokes of genius attest essential risk: if the cut deviated from Fontana's desired line, the entire canvas would have been discarded. Not only did the canvas need to be perfectly taut for a successful result, but the outcome depended on the moment of the chance of the performance. The slash is a bravura exhibition of the unrepeatable moment; the immediacy of the artist's gesture is suspended in time. The speed of the action recorded has the effect of 'killing time', while the clarity of the linear stroke underlines the moment of its creation. However, although this painting radiates with a sense of the momentary, there is nothing haphazard about its making. The result is transfixing and unique among the tagli series: with nervous energy and dynamic force, space pulses through the opening.
Created at the height of the artist's career, this work encapsulates the artist's wide-ranging ambitions as a pioneer of what art could achieve. Having broadcast his theory of Spatialism in five manifestos between 1946 and 1952, Fontana was to forge unthinkable advancements in artistic ideology, seeking to create a new age of Spatialist art that engaged technology and found expression for a fourth dimension and Infinity. Having been almost exclusively a sculptor until his forties, his oeuvre consistently referenced an artwork's material properties. Fontana's inquiry into the indeterminate zone between painting and sculpture was rooted in his abstract and figurative sculpture of the 1930s, which tested the gap between solid and void both by carving marks out of material and by creating freestanding marks in space. In close relation to Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, the tavolette graffite (scratched tablets) from 1931 display fluid incisions in cement that merge and dissolve as if free-floating. Even at this early stage Fontana evinced a disregard for traditional techniques and an interest in infinite space that would be significantly developed through painting. In the Natura cycle of imperfectly shaped terracotta spheres (1959-60) deep gashes suggest orifices and geographical fault lines, further freeing the artist from the constraints of two-dimensionality. In Concetto Spaziale, Attesa Fontana dissects the very concept of painting, undermining forever the flat picture plane. As Fontana declared in his last recorded interview: 'I make a hole in a canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape, symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface' (in conversation with Tommaso Trini, 19 July 1968 in: Exhibition Catalogue, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lucio Fontana , 1988, p. 34).
Fontana offers an original interpretation of the artist's gesture: instead of letting it remain on the surface he makes it penetrate through the canvas. This edited canvas is itself an act of art historical editing: the slashes propose questions concerning the relationship between the surface and the void, about the hidden properties of material, and regarding our place in the world around. Richly connotative, we are confronted with a multitude of sensual suggestions - at slits between theatre curtains, glimmers between lips, surgical incisions - but above all, through the superbly simple flick of a knife, Fontana initiated fissures in artistic convention that were to pierce the very meaning of art.
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese. Photo Sotheby"s
signed, titled and inscribed La rivoluzione dei giovani è sempre valida on the reverse; waterpaint on canvas; 61 by 50cm. , 24 by 19 5/8 in. Executed in 1968. Estimate 600,000-700,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 825,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Galleria Stefanoni, Lecco
Private Collection, Lecco
Galleria Marescalchi, Bologna
Sale: Sotheby's, Milan, Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, 20 May 2002, Lot 287
Galleria Dante Vecchiato, Padova
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, pp. 200-1, no. 68 T 53, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. II, p. 687, no. 68 T 53, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. I, p. 880, no. 68 T 53, illustrated
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino. Photo Sotheby"s
signed and titled on the reverse; waterpaint on canvas and lacquered wood; 127 by 168cm. 50 by 66 1/8 in. Executed in 1965. Estimate 400,000-600,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 657,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Rome
Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1969
EXHIBITED: Buenos Aires, Centro de Artes Visuales del Instituto Torcuato di Tella, Lucio Fontana, 1966, no. 70
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Lucio Fontana, The Spatial Concept of Art, no. 79
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Lucio Fontana - Concetti Spaziali, 1967, no. 60
Copenaghen, Louisiana Museum, Fontana, 1967, no. 51
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Fontana. Idéer om rymden, 1967, no. 71
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Lucio Fontana, 1968, no. 51
LITERATURE: Arte Casa, no. 64, November 1965, p. 51, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, p. 170, no. 65 TE 32, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. II, p. 597, no. 65 TE 32, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. II, p. 785, no. 65 TE 32, illustrated
NOTE: "The Teatrini look like small stages upon which silhouettes of trees and bushes lead their magic existence." (Erika Billeter in: Exhibition Cataloge, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana, 1977, p. 19).
Mediating an intangible boundary between painting and sculpture, Concetto spaziale, Teatrino is an outstanding example of Lucio Fontana's Teatrini (little stages) series, which the artist created between 1964 and 1966. Contained by a candid shaped wooden frame, the luminous white picture plane has been elegantly punctured with the artist's signature buchi (holes) that strike through to the conceptual infinity of the void beyond the picture plane. Executed just after La fine di Dio cycle, this series epitomizes Fontana's attempt to create a physical landscape that would represent Spatial Infinity. Although abstract, these small stages display figurative allusions through the silhouettes of the wooden frame elements that evoke trees and bushes, and the space between the frame and the punctuated background 'scenery', which alludes to an actual theatre. The frame has the aspiration to be a point of contact with reality as well as a window towards the infinity. Fontana's Teatrini ultimately embody the artist's desire to create a celestial spectacle, a tangible experience of the cosmos. As observed by Luca Massimo Barbero and Massimo Campigli, "these works do not possess 'theatricality' in the sense that they are a story, but respond to the artist's constant need to create an image that exists where everything is metaphorical, the fruit of fantasy and the memory of a possible future universe." (Luca Massimo Barbero and Paolo Campigli cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Mantova, Casa del Mantegna, Lucio Fontana. Teatrini, 1997, p. 13)
Loyal to the tradition of 20th Century Italian sculptors, such as Arturo Martini and Fausto Melotti who had employed analogous frameworks, Fontana enlarged the scope and artistic dimension of his Teatrini. In 1967 Lucio Fontana's Teatrini converged in the artist's collaboration with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where the artist designed the costume and scenery for the ballet Don Chisciotte by Goffredo Petrassi. During these memorable performances the concept beneath his Teatrini was enlarged and the stage set adapted for this pièce animated by dancers and music. In the same way as in Don Chisciotte, Fontana's ultimate intent was to translate through the Teatrini his Spatialist philosophy into a physical experience for the spectators. As observed by Crispolti, "[these] represent a hypothesis of Spatial figuration where the monochrome sky spatially perforated with constellations of holes in different conformations is distanced by the frame which has various protruding shapes. Fontana would refer to them as 'realist Spatialism'." (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. I, p. 79). Through the involvement of the spectator, the Teatrini are innerly connected with the artist's quest to experience the Infinity in his Ambienti Spaziali
Reaching his artistic maturity in the aftermath of World War II, a time of radical social, political and technological change, Fontana was profoundly impressed by the restless achievements of science, and in particular by space exploration. Just as the Futurists at the beginning of the century had tried to capture the essence of modern life, Fontana aspired to find a poetic articulation and an aesthetic metaphor for the conquest of space. Fontana investigated new solutions of rendering this sense of 'spatial dynamism', inspired in his pictorial and sculptural innovations by the legacy of Futurism and Baroque, which the artist formalized in his treatise Manifesto Bianco (1946). Contemporaneous with humankind's first explorations into Space, Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino captures within its extraordinary topography a revolutionary and unique perspective on human experience. This body of works was executed as a direct response to the growing phenomenon of space which grew around Yuri Gagarin's first trip in 1961. As observed by Enrico Crispolti specifically regarding the Teatrini, "[...] the proof that Fontana intends a possible cosmic figuration lies in his specific interest in that extraordinary image of man's first walk in space, connected by an imbilical cord of survival to the spaceship, which appeared in the newspaper at that time." (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. I, p. 70) Concetto Spaziale, Teatrino beautifully conveys the artist's fascination with the mysteries of space and matter, which meant for him 'materializing' the space, making visible the invisible, making palpable the impalpable . As he explained "A butterfly in space excites my imagination: having freed myself from rhetoric, I lose myself in time and begin my holes." (the artist cited in: Leonardo Sinisgalli, Pittori che scrivono. Antologia di scritti e disegni, Milan 1954, p. 115).
By 1965, the year the present Concetto spaziale, Teatrino was executed, the theoretical framework of his Spatialism was well-developed: "I am seeking to represent the void. Humanity, accepting the idea of Infinity, has already accepted the Idea of Nothingness. And today Nothingness is a mathematical formula" (the artist interviewed by Neiro Minuzzo, 1963, cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999-2000, p. 148). Fontana's Teatrini were not built following conventional laws of perspective, on the contrary the artist's stages attempt through a dramatic use of lights and shadows to create magical atmospheres that allow to grasp the 'Immaterial' and what lies beyond the stage. As observed by Erika Billeter, "the Teatrini look like small stages upon which silhouettes of trees and bushes lead their magic existence." (Erika Billeter in: Exhibition Cataloge, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana, 1977, p. 19). The viewer's eye and mind are forced to meditate upon what lies beyond the canvas surface. The delicate white colour finally appears as a pure cosmos incised by a trascendent vital and phenomenological energy. The result is a work of sublime rarefied beauty, where there are no boundaries for the artist's expressive freedom.
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, New York 11. Photo Sotheby"s
signed; brass; 65 by 65cm. 25 1/2 by 25 1/2 in. Executed in 1962. Estimate 500,000-700,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 601,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan
Lechien Collection, Brussels
Galerie Arditti, Paris
Maglietta Collection, Rome
Acquired by the present owner in the 1980s
EXHIBITED: Milan, Galleria dell'Ariete, L. Fontana, New York, 1962
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, p. 122, no. 62 ME 21, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. II, p. 414, no. 62 ME 21, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. II, p.600, no. 62 ME 21, illustrated
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale. Photo Sotheby"s
signed and dated 57; ink, gouache, holes, graffiti and aniline on paper laid down on canvas; 69 by 69cm. 27 1/8 by 27 1/8 in. Estimate 130,000-180,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 289,250 GBP
PROVENANCE: Teresita Rasini Fontana, Milan
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana. Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. I, p. 442, n. 59 CA 15, illustrated
NOTE: "A butterfly in space excites my imagination: having freed myself from rhetoric, I lose myself in time and begin my holes." (the artist cited in: Leonardo Sinisgalli, Pittori che scrivono. Antologia di scritti e disegni, Milan 1954, p. 115).
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale. Photo Sotheby"s
signed and dated 56; signed, titled, dated 56 and dedicated All'amico/Dangelo affettuosamente on the reverse; oil on canvas; 80 by 65cm.; 31 1/2 by 25 1/2 in. Estimate 600,000-800,000 GBP - Unsold
This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under no.370/2 and it is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
PROVENANCE; Sergio Dangelo, Milan
Private Collection, Milan
Sale: Brearte, Milan, 11 March 1985
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
EXHIBITED: Venice, Chiesa di San Samuele, Antiquariato di domani. Antologia della Pittura Italiana dagli inizi alla metà del '900, 1984, pp. 154-155, no. 82, illustrated in colour
Sartirana, Castello di Sartirana, Anni Cinquanta. Pittura in Lombardia, Piemonte e Liguaria, 1991, illustrated
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, p. 40, no. 56 P 44, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. I, p. 148, no. 56 P 44, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. I, p. 288, no. 56 P 44, illustrated
NOTE: Displaying beautiful and lyrical curling swathes of impasto, Lucio Fontana's breathtaking Concetto spaziale belongs to the highly acclaimed Pietre series, which the artist created from 1951 to 1958. While included into this very significant Pietre series, which the art body of works, the present painting stands very much on its own in terms of importance. Whereas its surface does not display the signature stones, the great sense of movement of the composition places Concetto spaziale within the highest tier of works from this series and significantly represents a bridge with the artist's own Barocchi cycle that had explored thick crusty surfaces. While other examples from this cycle are now housed in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome and the van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, this jewelled work is a truly sublime exhibition of Fontana's Spatialism still in private hands, and is of major importance as a cornerstone of one of the most ground-breaking artistic philosophies of the Twentieth Century.
Immediately impressive is the stunning freshness and utter vitality of the luminous silvery grey pigment, its brightness amplified through contrast with the intense black background and the beautifully composed buchi. Since first puncturing his canvas in 1949, Fontana had been singularly committed to the Spatialist mission to explore the conceptual depths beyond the limits of the two-dimensional picture plane. During the mid-1950s he was working in at least five artistic modes, including the Pietre, Buchi, the Barocchi and the Gessi, and the present work, executed in 1956, represents the climax of this tremendously active period. By adding broken pieces of solid glass to the paint surface Fontana introduced sculptural projections into the space in front of the canvas. In the present work the thick curls of paint are acting as counterparts to the recessions of the geometrically organised buchi: the voids of the holes contrasted with the boldly protruding swathes of impasto, creating a landscape of diametrically opposed forces. This balance between recession and protrusion is highly conceptual, as Crispolti has described: "The 'holes', in fact, represent a spatial 'other side' with respect to the surface of the canvas, while the material concretions and the 'stones' on the surface represent 'this side', creating a different spatial allusion, but also iconographic suggestions of a prevalently cosmic nature" (Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. I, Milan 2006, p. 31).
From the expanse of black-painted canvas weave, to the thick, grainy layers of silvery grey pigment, the present work constantly reminds us that until his late 1940s Fontana had been exclusively a sculptor and possessed an instinctive grasp of three-dimensions. The strong sense of movement orchestrated by the impasto is held in equilibrium by the underlying disposition of holes, and this dynamic relationship also reveals the importance of both the Baroque and Futurism to Fontana's Spatialism. Furthermore, the dominant circular dynamic of the brush-strokes is immediately evocative of the spiralling Milky Way galaxy; an analogy that presciently parallels the earliest investigations into Space exploration that were starting to happen at that time and became so important to both Fontana's aesthetic and Spatialist philosophy.
A symphony of simultaneous penetration and eruption, the surface of Concetto spaziale is animated with the tension of exactly diametric forces. The geometric buchi pierce a window into an unknown space beyond, while the thick curving strokes of paint are a sculptural assault on space in front of the picture plane. As Anthony White has explained, "The Concetto spaziale engaged the viewer with an opulent vision of radiance that extended into real architectural space beyond the limited and private pictorial plane" (Anthony White, 'Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch', Grey Room, No. 5, Autumn 2001, p. 70). Conceived the year after two solo shows in Milan, as well asGrey Room, No. 5, Autumn 2001 exhibitions in Cannes and Madrid, the year of this work also saw shows in Australia, Cincinnati and his participation in the VII Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte in Rome, which included paintings from this stones cycle. Clearly Fontana's reputation by this time was well-established and Concetto spaziale is the product of a confident maestro at the height of his creative powers. Dedicated to the artist Sergio Dangelo on the reverse and having originally resided in his collection, Concetto spaziale also testifies the special relationship and artistic osmosis between two artists.
Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale. Photo Sotheby"s
signed; oil on canvas; 73 by 60cm. 28 3/4 by 23 5/8 in. Executed in 1966 . Estimate 500,000-700,000 GBP. Unsold
PROVENANCE: Esselier Collection, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
LITERATURE: Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogue Raisonné, Brussels 1974, Vol. II, pp. 142-3, no. 66-67 O 3, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Generale, Milan 1986, Vol. II, p. 493, no. 66-67 O 3, illustrated
Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Milan 2006, Vol. II, p. 684, no. 66-67 O 3, illustrated
NOTE: "I make a hole in a canvas in order to leave behind the old pictorial formulae, the painting and the traditional view of art and I escape, symbolically, but also materially, from the prison of the flat surface" (the artist in conversation with Tommaso Trini, July 19, 1968, in Exhibition Catalogue, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1988, p. 34).
Executed in 1966, at the height of the artist's career Concetto Spaziale presents a vision of large ambitions. The exceptional beauty and presence, with such tactile surface, of the present piece handles a fundamental Modernist question as to the status of the artist's touch: without doubt, Fontana's background as a sculptor reinvigorated the importance of facture within conceptual art, and nowhere is it better materialised than in the present piece, a triumphant meeting place for the solid and the void, the tactile and the abstract. Here the sheer energy of Fontana's process harnesses an enigmatic combination of violence and delicacy. The sheen of the oil paint lends the piece a vitality enhanced by the rosy pigment, and immediately the piece commands a thrilling juxtaposition of delicate colouring and the violation inflicted by the artist. Fontana has torn holes in the canvas and then thrust his hands in while the paint was still wet. A look towards outer space is focussed by the circular form that orbits the eruption of holes in the middle. By 1961, with Yuri Gagarin launched as the first person into space, Spatialism was confirmed as one of the most momentous concepts of the twentieth century art theory, regarding art as a channel for the concerns of mankind on the most universal scale. 'The discovery of the Cosmos is a new dimension, it is the Infinite: so I make a hole in the canvas, which is the basis for all previous art, to search for an infinite dimension, an X which for me is the basis of all Contemporary Art' (Fontana interviewed by Carla Lonzi in: Carla Lonzi, Autoritratto, Bari 1969, p.169).
The artist's return to Italy from Buenos Aires in 1947 had marked the beginning of a move towards abstraction, turning his back on figurative art and painterly convention to the point that even the two-dimensional plane was not enough.Fixated on the principle that in the space age the work should dynamically transform the space by which it is defined, he was spurred to produce an astonishingly forceful series works in a range of media and underpinned by a rare conceptual integrity, from 'Buchi' (holes) to 'Pietre' (stones), 'Gessi' (chalks), 'Inchiostri' (inks), 'Tagli' (cuts) and 'Nature' (natures). The formal purity running through each sequence brings out the idiosyncrasy of the given material, by which the classic epithet of modernist sculpture, 'truth to materials', is channelled into the conceptual realm.
The hole in the present piece sublimes both concerns of painting and sculpture: 'Sculpture and painting are both things of the past...we need a new form. Art that's movement. Art within space.' (Hedy. A. Giusti, 'But Nobody Mentions Milan Art', Rome Daily American 9 July 1954, in Anthony White, 'Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch' in Grey Room no. 5, Autumn 2001, p.56). Fontana is making a return to oil on canvas in conscious reassessment of the fallen condition of painting. Feeling his way between paint and form, the canvas becomes a three-dimensional site for their conjunction. The oil paint itself becomes a sculptural material, dragged by the artist's fingers in sensual furrows towards the gaps. A piece that explores the rebirth of painting and sculpture as one, Fontana appears to be ripping through the pink icing on a creamy surface in an extraordinary celebration of his conceptual breakthrough. Ultimately the canvas here documents Fontana's ability to seize hold of an idea, and to visualise it in terms that are both visceral and powerfully muscular. The physicality of his conceptual process, realized with unerring tactility, endures in what amounts to a profoundly moving visual experience.
Sotheby's, 20th Century Italian Art Including Italian Identity - an Important Private Collection, London, 13 Oct 2011 www..sothebys.com