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I do not want to make a painting; I want to open up space, create a new dimension, tie in the cosmos, as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture.

—— Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana (1899 – 1968) was an Argentine-Italian artist known as the founder of Spatialism. Throughout his prolific career, Fontana demonstrated a relentless interest in the relationship between surface and dimensionality. Fontana formulated the theory of Spatialism in a series of manifestos dating from the late 1940s to early 1950s, focusing on the spatial qualities of sculpture and paintings with the goal of breaking through the two-dimensionality of the traditional picture plane. Fontana implemented this theory in his series Concetto Spaziale (‘spatial concept’), which are monochrome canvases that he would cut or puncture, leaving distinctive gaping slash marks and holes that imbued the finished work with an almost violent energy. From 1958 he purified his paintings by creating matte, monochrome surfaces, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on the slices that rend the skin of the canvas. In 1959 Fontana exhibited cut-off paintings with multiple combinable elements (he named the sets quanta), and began Nature, a series of sculptures made by cutting a gash across a sphere of terracotta clay, which he subsequently cast in bronze. Around 1960, Fontana began to reinvent the cuts and punctures that had characterized his highly personal style up to that point, covering canvases with layers of thick oil paint applied by hand and brush and using a scalpel or Stanley knife to create great fissures in their surface.Among Fontana’s last works are a series of Teatrini (‘little theatres’), in which he returned to an essentially flat idiom by using backcloths enclosed within wings resembling a frame; the reference to theatre emphasizes the act of looking, while in the foreground a series of irregular spheres or oscillating, wavy silhouettes creates a lively shadow play.

Born on February 19, 1899 in Rosario de Santa Fé, Argentina, the painter and sculptor spent his career travelling between Argentina and Italy. Fontana’s innovative theories prefigured later developments in environmental art, performance art, and Arte Povera. Fontana died on September 7, 1968 in Varese, Italy at the age of 69, just two years after being awarded the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale.Today, his works are held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Kunstmuseum in Basel, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, among others.


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Lucio Fontana

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