Lucio Fontana
Year, Birthplace 1899, Italy
Year, Place of death 1968, Italy
Lucio Fontana’s parents worked in the art world: his father, who was of Italian origin, owned a decorative sculpture company while his Argentinean mother was an actress. The family returned to Milan when he was six years old. In 1914, he enrolled in a local school and attended his father's studio. In 1917, he enlisted as a volunteer in the army. Wounded in the war, he was demobilised and began studying again until he graduated at the end of the school year. In 1920, he enrolled in the Accademia di belle Arti di Brera, Milan. In 1922, he returned to Argentina, worked at his father's studio and later opened his own studio in 1924. He began exhibiting his sculptures and won several awards and commissions. At this time, he was influenced by Aristide Maillol and Alexander Archipenko. Returning to Milan in 1928, he re-enrolled at the Brera academy as a student of Adolfo Wildt. He abandoned the academic style in 1930, turning to more primitive, almost expressionist, forms of expression, particularly in the ceramics that he produced in Albisola. In the mid-1930s, the shapes of his sculptures became more abstract: in 1934, he joined the group of Italian abstract sculptors and the following year he became a member of the Paris-based Abstraction-Création group. He began to exhibit his work in several countries and to be recognised by critics (his first solo exhibition took place at the Galleria del Milione in Milan in 1930). The exhibition that he staged in the same gallery in 1935 was the first exhibition of abstract sculpture in Italy. In 1940, when war broke out, he returned to Argentina and remained there until 1947, settling in Buenos Aires and becoming a lecturer at the school of fine art. In 1946 he founded the Academia Privada de Altamira. In contact with young artists and intellectuals, Fontana developed his theories and published the Manifiesto Blanco [White Manifesto]. His art became truly established when he returned to Milan in 1947. He developed all the more quickly since he was forced to start from scratch, the majority of his works having been destroyed during the war. He founded the spatialist movement and published the Primo Manifesto dello Spazialismo [the first manifesto of spatialism] in 1947, which was followed by a second in 1948 and a third in 1950. In 1951 he published the Manifesto Tecnico dello Spazialismo [technical manual of spatialism], a series of texts expressing the basis of his philosophy and explaining his investigations and his conception of a new art. In 1949 he temporarily abandoned sculpture to begin using a sharpened tool to drill into paper glued onto canvas, which was frequently monochromatic and stretched over a structure (‘buchi’). The torn paper around each perforation produced a relief. From this point onwards, all of his works would be named Concetto spaziale [Spatial Concept]. In 1951 he created 'spatial environments’, neon tubes, whose shape he sculpted, filled with gases or black light obtained from Wood’s lamps. He carried out multiple experiments with glass, ceramics, and metal plates and at a later date, in 1958, he created his first lacerations (‘tagli’). Over the course of ten years Fontana tore, perforated, broke and lacerated the space of the canvas, thereby imposing his irreversible and radical gesture which authenticates his work to this day. This was the first time that an artist had attacked himself on the support on which he worked. His work is conceptual because, according to the artist, the ideas behind the work are more important than the work itself. For him, the canvas was not (or was no longer) a support but an illusion. Lucio Fontana was one of the precursors of minimalism and a supporter of Arte Povera, although his work, which evolved over a long period, is unclassifiable. The international renown that he enjoyed from the 1960s onwards is demonstrated by the solo exhibition held at the 1966 Venice Biennale. AC