The leading protagonist of post-war Italian art, Lucio Fontana is perhaps best known for his tagli (‘cuts’), which are the aesthetic and symbolic embodiment of Spatialism, the radical movement he founded in Milan in 1947.
Born in Rosario de Santa Fé, Argentina in 1899, Fontana was raised in Milan, before returning to South America in 1922, where he worked as a sculptor in his father’s studio for several years. He later enrolled at the Accademia di Brera, Milan in 1928, where he became known primarily as a sculptor, producing numerous terracotta reliefs of dematerialized human silhouettes and incising cement tablets in a free and abstract manner.
He later enrolled at the Accademia di Brera, Milan in 1928, where he became known primarily as a sculptor, producing numerous terracotta reliefs of dematerialized human silhouettes and incising cement tablets in a free and abstract manner.
It was in Argentina where he had settled again in 1940, that Fontana developed the fundamentals of his theory of Spatialism, the movement that would come to define his prolific and distinguished career. Believing that art had to embody and reflect the technological and scientific developments of the time, he called for a new form of artistic creation, one that embraced the dynamic concepts of space, light and time.
After returning to Milan in 1947, he began working with a vast range of media, both artistic and architectural, and experimented with numerous methods aiming to produce an art based on Spatialism. In 1949 he made his first punctured canvases, the buchi (‘holes’), followed almost a decade later by his iconic tagli. By puncturing the surface of the canvas itself, Fontana incorporated time and space into his work, whilst simultaneously providing the viewer with a chasm of enigmatic darkness, the embodiment of the infinite realm of cosmic space that had been revealed to man with the advent of space travel.
Fontana’s first major international retrospective was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1977. Subsequent museum exhibitions include the Musée national d’art moderne de la ville de Paris and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, (1987); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1988); Kunsthalle Frankfurt, (1996), and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2006–07). Fontana’s work can today be found in museums across the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museo del Novecento, Milan; and Tate, London, among many others.
Lucio Fontana died in Varese, Italy in 1968.