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Lucio Fontana

Italian Painter, Sculptor, and Conceptual Artist

Lucio Fontana Photo
Movement: Modern Sculpture

Born: 1899 - Rosario de Santa Fe, Argentina

Died: 1968 - Comabbio, Varese, Italy

"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 Signature

Summary of Lucio Fontana

The career of artist Lucio Fontana spans some of the most tumultuous decades of the 20th century, from the build up to World War I to the aftermath of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Trained initially as a sculptor, Fontana rejected the traditional constraints of particular artistic materials and techniques, choosing instead to invent his own media and methods in response to the rapidly changing world he inhabited. Fontana reinterpreted the physical and theoretical limits of art by considering art works as concepts of space, often using surprising gestures that created holes and cuts in canvases to reveal unseen spatial regions. Fontana embraced paradoxes, destroying physical and intellectual traditions in order to create new discoveries.

Key Ideas

In the wake of WWII, Fontana joined other artists in determining a new form of art that was informed by the rapid technological and scientific advancements of their time. Establishing a new movement called Spatialism, Fontana called for an art that would aptly reflect and respond to the experiences of space and time by unifying them in new ways. In this effort, Fontana broke away from traditional forms of painting and sculpture, making instead what he called concetti spaziale (spatial concepts) that turned objects into three dimensional spaces and turned mundane spaces into experimental environments.
Fontana is known for creating deliberate openings in canvases, allowing the work of art to not only rest upon the surface of the support, but also to encompass the hidden spaces in between and behind the traditional surface image. He created holes, called buchi, and cuts, called tagli, that pierced the canvas materials and exposed the space behind it. These holes and cuts provide an opportunity for the unseen parts of the work to come to the fore and carry meaning.
In addition to works that opened up canvases, Fontana was also interested in building layers on top of canvases to heighten awareness of the broader spaces of the art work. Small pieces of glass and stone were applied to the surface of canvases, inviting the natural effects of light reflection and refraction as equal actors influencing the viewer's perception of the image. Thus expanding the flat canvas, Fontana brought attention to the concept of the void, asking viewers to consider the unmapped parts of the universe and the uncertain quality of the future. Simultaneously, the glass and stone pieces show how we fill such voids, through physical objects we create as well as natural phenomena in our environment.
Lucio Fontana Photo

Lucio Fontana was born in Rosario de Santa Fe, Argentina in 1899 to Lucia Bottini, an Argentinian actress of both Swiss and Italian descent, and Luigi Fontana, an Italian sculptor of commemorative and funerary monuments who had emigrated to Argentina. His parents never married and eventually separated in 1905, when Fontana moved to Italy for schooling, living with relatives in Varese, where his studies included architecture, physics, engineering, math, and the arts. As a young scholar, Fontana was enamored with the Futurists' rejection of older ways of making and seeing art, encouraging art to be of its time rather than to perpetuate the norms of the past that no longer serve the contemporary artist.

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