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To be offered 05/01/16: Lucio Fontana (Argentine/Italian 1899-1968) "Concetto Spaziale," Estimate $60,000-100,000.

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Anne Henry
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Published: 30 March 2016

Of Form & Matter: The Sculptural Work of Lucio Fontana

Freeman's May 1 auction of Modern & Contemporary Art is highlighted by Lucio Fontana's piece "Concetto Spaziale." Perhaps best known for his punctured and slashed canvases of the 1950s, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) also worked extensively with organic materials like terracotta and clay from his earliest days as an artist. His father was a sculptor, and Fontana apprenticed in his studio as a child, later opening a studio of his own. His earliest exhibitions of the 1930s, in fact, were mostly of three-dimensional, sculpted works.

After attending art school in Milan, Fontana spent time in Argentina where he founded the Altamira Academy and developed the first foundations of “Spazialismo,”or “Spatialist” movement, which was formally established upon his return to Milan in 1947. In his various writings defining this new movement, Fontana and others called for an art that embraced science and technology. During this period, he worked with neon paint and light, as well as black light, creating spatial environments that can now be seen as some of the earliest examples of installation art. Ever interested in evolving new techniques, Fontana soon honed in on concepts of space and matter, and began to pierce and puncture the canvas surface so as to create actual dimensions of space:

“Now in space there is no longer any measurement…Now you see infinity....in the Milky Way, now there are billions and billions ....The sense of measurement and of time no longer exists. Before it could be like that...but today it is certain, because man speaks of billions of years, of thousands and thousands of billions of years to reach, and so, here is the void, man is reduced to nothing...When man realizes ....that he is nothing, nothing, that he is pure spirit he will no longer have materialistic ambitions... man will become like God, he will become spirit. This is the end of the world and the liberation of matter, of man ...man will become a simple being like a flower, a plant will only live through his intelligence, through the beauty of nature he will purify himself with blood, because he constantly lives with blood...And my art too is all based on this purity on this philosophy of nothing, which is not a destructive nothing, but a creative nothing.... And the slash, and the holes, the first holes, were not the destruction of the painting...it was a dimension beyond the painting, the freedom to conceive art through any means, through any form.”  (L. Fontana, quoted in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, 1998, p. 246).

Almost immediately, the artist brought this interestin a third dimension to his ceramic work. The present work, one from the simply titled, “Concetto Spaziale” series, is heavy and substantial, asserting its earthly physicality and weight. At the same time, it is also ethereal and delicate with a monochromatic, soft charcoal paint and delicately incised lines and signature. There is no sense of gravity in this work, no top and no bottom. And yet, three central punctures add depth and dimension with their dark voids.

This work comes to Freeman’s from the Estate of Elaine and Jerome Kurtz, who first purchased it from New York’s venerable Martha Jackson Gallery in 1963. For the last fifty years it has hung on their walls until now, when Freeman’s will be pleased to present it as a highlight of our May 1 Modern & Contemporary Art auction.

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To be offered 05/01/16: Lucio Fontana (Argentine/Italian 1899-1968) "Concetto Spaziale," Estimate $60,000-100,000.

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