A proscenium to the infinite cosmos. An unpublished Lucio Fontana on display at Hauser & Wirth
All the sculptural art of the famous Italian artist exhibited in New York
A space artist, not a painter or a sculptor. This is how Lucio Fontana called himself, on display with no less than 80 sculptural works at Hauser & Wirth New York until February 4, 2023. An impressive exhibition in homage to the artist, who concretely reinvented millennia of European sculpture.
It was 1961 when Fontana exhibited for the first time in New York, again at 32 East 69th Street, now home to the iconic international gallery. Hauser & Wirth presents, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero and in collaboration with the Lucio Fontana Foundation, “Lucio Fontana. Sculpture.” The father of spatialism used the inspiration of Baroque art in his creations: this is how the famous “Spatial Concepts” originated, which led him to the intuition of cuts, holes and sui generis artefacts.
Ceramics, clay, terracotta, plaster, glass, metal and wood
Hauser & Wirth brings together a series of his three-dimensional works in ceramic, clay, terracotta, plaster, glass, metal and wood made over the course of five decades, from the 1920s to 1968, placed in dialogue with paintings and drawings that follow the sculptural methodology . The work that immediately stands out in the exhibition is “Spatial concept, The moon in Venice” from 1961: a clear homage to the Byzantine echoes of the lush Italian lagoon, the moon contrasts the nocturnal darkness with a precious circle of silver light, and inside small colored glass gems – a clear reference to the traditions of Murano – symbol of the ethereal reflections of the star on the water. The exhibition continues with almost unpublished sculptures including “Nude” (1926) and with an exploration of works from the 1930s such as “Abstract Sculpture”, “Shells and Butterflies” and “Sea Horses”. Created during a period of intense research, they embody a syncretism between abstract and figurative, highlighting Fontana’s innovative genius: “A change in essence and form is necessary. It is right to go beyond painting, sculpture, poetry. What we need now is an art based on a new vision.” Statements by the artist that prelude the subsequent works of 1947, including “Spatial sculpture”, a material circle imbued with primordial force (exhibited at the 1948 Biennale), which enters into dialogue with figurative works such as the monumental “Female figure with flowers ”. The second floor is instead dedicated to spatial concepts – where we find the famous “Bread” – in relation to terracotta sculptures, among which “Arlecchino” and the quivering “Battle” stand out. The top floor is dedicated to the new sculptural variants born between the late fifties and sixties. The exposed Natures, torn and cut spheres, reveal an existential and metaphysical component: a sort of meteorite scattered in the cosmos.
At the end of the path, executed in the last period of the artist’s life, we find the Ellissi (1967) and the metal sculptures, “space capsules” that bear witness to a productive but less known moment in which the boundaries between painting and sculpture are almost cancelled. And this is how Fontana transcends two-dimensionality to reach the fourth dimension, towards infinity. A place where time and man become one, aiming at future horizons: “I thought of these universes, the moon with its holes, the exhausting silence that surrounds us, the astronauts in a new world and all these immensities that are there for billions of years. Man took his first steps into space in dead silence and left a vital sign of his arrival.”
“Lucio Fontana. Sculpture”, New York, until February 4, 2023