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Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale. Natura.

Artist Lucio Fontana was born in 1899 in Rosario, Argentina. From 1921 until 1947, he travelled between Milan and his homeland to study and work. In Milan, Fontana followed a traditional sculptural training and first started to make figurative work. A little later he switched to abstraction, both in his sculptures and paintings. In 1934 the artist joined the Parisian group Abstraction-Création, just as his friend Fausto Melotti did one year after. In 1946 Fontana published his findings and theories in the manifest Manifiesto Blanco. In this statement Fontana, who became most known for his monochrome Concetti Spaziali ("Spatial Concepts") announced his goals for such a "spatiality art", in which he attempted to explore the relationship between the space of the painting and the space beyond the painting. In 1947 he became the co-founder of the Movimenteo Spaziale. This Milan based movement operated precisely according the above mentioned White Manifesto and served also as a great influence and inspiration for the German ZERO group and the Dutch counterpart, Nul. In 1952 Fontana began his Pietre ("Stones") series. He fused the sculptural with the painting by encrusting the surfaces of his canvases with heavy impasto and colored glass. In another series, the Buchi ("Holes"), Fontana punctured and perforated the surface of his canvases. At the end of the 1950s, the artist slightly purified his paintings by creating more matte, monochrome surfaces, thus focusing the viewer's attention on the slices that rend the skin of the canvas. In 1968 Fontana died in Varese, Italy.

Concetti Spaziali: The Natura series

Throughout his life Lucio Fontana never abandoned his origins as a sculptor, having been greatly influenced by Baroque sculpture in his youth. Fontana started to work on canvas from the late 1940s onwards but his paintings always retained a very sculptural quality. Natura is one of a series of works made by cutting a gash across a sphere of terracotta clay, which Fontana subsequently cast in bronze. He believed that the incision was a "vital sign," signaling "a desire to make the inert material live." Fontana was concerned with transformation, and the shifting, yet indestructible density of matter. The Nature series was partly inspired by thoughts of the "atrocious unnerving silence awaiting man in space," and the need to leave a "living sign" of the artist's presence. With the appearance of an erupting seed or embryo from a far-flung corner of the cosmos, the Natura recall Lucio Fontana's ceramics of the late 1930s that gave the impression of sculptures in the throes of radical, violent change; forms that reverberate with the seismic power of an earthquake.

In the summer of 1959, six months after he had made the first Attese ("Expectations") paintings, Fontana started working on a series of monumental clay sculptures called the Natura, that can be seen as the diametric opposite of the precise, clinical cuts of the Attese. The artist worked on these sculptures with a long metal pole, stirring it deep into the colossal ball of soft clay with tremendous vigor. Putting all of his weight behind the bar for maximum leverage, Fontana was able to gouge out and create the characteristic thick crusty rim along the edge of each gash, giving the appearance of an eruption from deep within the object's inner core. Like the Attese, the Natura subscribe to Fontana's unmistakable blend of creative, theatrical virtuosity: the flatness of the canvas here translated into organic roundness of a large meteoritic sphere.

The Natura works, along with the Fine di Dio ("End of God"), are probably Fontana's most poetic and symbolic works. He combines his artistic efforts with his spiritual background, which became increasingly important to him in his later years. The shape alludes to the terrestrial sphere as well as to a seed, bestowing the Natura with a powerful presence that is both mystical and sensual.

The immense grandeur of the Natura's solid dark forms lies in their understated simplicity and monumental physical presence. The present Nature owes its distinctive galactic aura to a combination of a few key concepts that underlie the artist's best work - namely the simplicity of and truth to material and the expressive potential of simple gestures like the cut or hole.

Natura's galactic, other-worldly character is further enhanced by the size and gushing quality of its prominent wound-like crater. Transfixed by the eerie silence and vastness of suggestion that shrouds the present work, Natura provide a powerful example of the unique way in which Fontana's oeuvre accumulates different layers of meaning and context, their brutal rawness a record of Fontana's intense process of creation.

Object information

Date and place:
Verona, 1959-1960, cast in 1962-1963
63 x 75 x 79 cm
Private Collection, U.K. Axel Vervoordt Gallery, 2013 Private Collection, Japan, 1999-2013 Axel Vervoordt Company, 1999 Kunstkammer Collection Bruno Grossetti, Milan, Italy Collection Dino Gavina, San Lazzaro di Savena, Italy
1960 Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy
1961 Pagani des Grattacielo, Milan, Italy and Iris Clert, Paris, France
1963 Paris, France
1972 Brussels, Belgium and Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy
1980 Cologne, Germany
1983 Premieren, Cologne, Germany
1996 Frankfurt, Germany
1997 Vienna, Austria
1997 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

With certificate of Fondazione Lucio Fontana

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