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 Lucio Fontana  (1899 - 1968)

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Lived/Active: France/Argentina/Italy      Known for: slashed canvas expressionist work, found object assemblage

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from Auction House Records.
Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Lucio Fontana (19 February 1899 – 7 September 1968) was an Italian-Argentinian painter and sculptor.  He was mostly known as the founder of Spatialism and his ties to Arte Povera.

Born in Rosario, province of Santa Fe, Argentina of Italian parents, Fontana spent the first years of his life in Italy and came back to Argentina in 1905, where he stayed until 1922, working as a sculptor along with his father, and then on his own.

In 1927 he returned to Italy and studied under the sculptor Adolfo Wildt, at Accademia di Brera from 1928 to 1930.  It was there where he presented his first exhibition in 1930, organized by the Milano art gallery Il Milione.  During the following decade he journeyed Italy and France, working with abstract and expressionist painters.  In 1935 he joined the association Abstraction-Création in Paris and from 1936 to 1949 made expressionnist sculptures in ceramic and bronze.

In 1940 he returned to Argentina.  In Buenos Aires (1946) he founded the Altamira academy together with some of his students, and made public the White Manifesto, where it is stated that "Matter, colour and sound in motion are the phenomena whose simultaneous development makes up the new art".  In the text, which Fontana did not sign but to which he actively contributed, he began to formulate the theories that he was to expand as Spazialismo, or Spatialism, in five manifestos from 1947 to 1952. Back in Milano in 1947, he supported, along with writers and philosophers, the first manifesto of spatialism (Spazialismo). He also resumed his ceramics works in Albisola.

Following his return to Italy in 1948 Fontana exhibited his first Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment) (1949), a temporary installation consisting of a giant amoeba-like shape suspended in the void in a darkened room and bombarded by neon light.  From 1949 on he started the so-called Spatial Concept or slash series, consisting in holes or slashes on the surface of monochrome paintings, drawing a sign of what he named "an art for the Space Age".  He then created an elaborate neon ceiling called "Luce spaziale" in 1951 for the Triennale in Milan.  From 1958 he purified his paintings by creating matte, monochrome surfaces, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on the slices that rend the skin of the canvas.  In 1959 he exhibited cut-off paintings with multiple combinable elements (he named the sets quanta). At Documenta IV in Kassel in 1968, he positioned a large, revelatory slash as the centre of a totally white room.

Shortly before his death he was present at the "Destruction Art, Destroy to Create" demonstration at the Finch College Museum of New York. Then he left his home in Milano and went to Comabbio (in the province of Varese, Italy), his family's mother town, where he died in 1968.

He was the sculptor of the bust of Ovidio Lagos, founder of the La Capital newspaper, in Carrara marble.

Exhibitions
Fontana had his first solo exhibitions at Galleria del Milione, Milan, in 1931. He participated in the Bienal de São Paulo and in numerous exhibitions in Europe (including London and Paris) and Asia, as well as New York. He was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale of 1966. Today Fontana's works can be found in the permanent collections of more than one hundred museums around the world.

Source:
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucio_Fontana

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Lucio Fontana was born in Rosario di Santa Fe, Argentina on February 19, 1899.  He studied at Instituto Tecnico Carlo Cattarreo, Milan and studied sculpture in both Milan and Buenos Aires.  He developed a reputation as an avant-garde esthetician and theoretician.  He was a member of the Abstraction-Creation Group in Paris and was a co-signatory of the Manifesto of Italian Abstract Art.  He worked on ceramics in Sevres, France; he was associated with Joan Miro and Brancusi in Paris 1937.  Yet Fontana only began painting when he was fifty years old and he achieved widespread critical success only in the last decade of his life.   

Fontana first perforated pastel and watercolor canvases in Milan in 1954.  To slash the canvas, to  pierce it with a sharp instrument; for many these acts of aggression are the essence of Fontana.  He was influenced somewhat by Surrealism. He attacked the canvas with knives or clotted its surface with junk jewel fragments or with carved symbols, earning him the right to be reckoned among the liberators of art.  Fontana died in Comabbio. Varese, Italy, on September 7, 1968.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:   
Contemporary Artists   
Fontana's Post-Dada Operatics by Holland Cotter, in Art in America, March 1987.


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