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Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana, Deposizione della Croce
Lucio Fontana, Deposizione della Croce
Galerie Karsten Greve Paris (Côte rue)

May 20 - July 29, 2017
 
Vernissage: Saturday, May 20, 2017, 6 - 8 pm
 
WORKS
EXHIBITION BROCHURE
 
Ceramics appeared in the work of Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) starting in the 1930s when he visited the Mazzotti factory in Albisola. However, it was at the outset of the Spatialist adventure during the post-war years that Fontana began to produce a substantial body of religious ceramics. These became his primary occupation for more than ten years until the end of the 1950s, or, in other words: exactly contemporaneously to the development of Spatialism and Concetti Spaziali (Spatial Concepts) and Ambienti spaziali (Spatial Environments) that for a long time contributed to his renown, thus eclipsing his religious ceramics.
 
Fontana's interest in the sacred carries his secular mind-set, one that he had upheld ever since his youth when he spent years training in his father's studio in Rosario de Santa Fe (Argentina) sculpting funeral monuments, 'Christs', and the Virgin and Child. Fontana therefore had never described himself as a devout artist and the aesthetic freedom that he allows himself in how he treats the themes of the Crucifixion, Assumption, Deposition, Virgin and Child, Way of the Cross attest to this. Working with clay and therefore with ceramic allows him to express, in a very 'sketch-like' fashion, both the great ductility in one continuous movement (a spatial continuum), as well as the energy in his hand gestures that demonstrate the spontaneity and speed in his great artistic virtuosity. Art critic and friend Guido Ballo (1914-2010) remembered that when he was sculpting, "his hands created an aerial musicality and he remained silent as though in a trance."
 
All of these subjects, whether religious or secular or not, give rise to a different way of thinking about a new artistic inventiveness that embraces gesture, matter, space, colour and light. Fontana searches in all directions. He is curious, inventive, highly productive, and when a method crosses his path, he seizes the opportunity: he unhesitatingly updates those from the past to bring them into step with his own era, thus showing that he is indeed a man with a plethora of aesthetics. This can be seen in several photographs taken in the late 1950s in the basement of his studio on Corso Monforte in Milan in which Fontana poses among his ceramics and various Concetti spaziali.
 
Credit for clarity is surely deserved for Fontana's initial statement in La mia ceramica ('my ceramics') published in 1939 in Tempo magazine: "I am a sculptor and not a ceramist" ("Io sono un scultore e non un ceramista"). He approaches technique as would a sculptor and not as a ceramist, and it is probably thanks to this state of mind, liberated from any restrictive ties to the material, that he manages to create pieces with such aesthetic freedom that this even leads to refreshing the very terms used to describe this material traditionally used in the decorative arts.

Speaking of ceramics, Fontana emphasized on several occasions that he was not as interested in techniques as he was in the ductile potential of the material itself - simultaneously flexible and dense. His attraction to this material was heighted by the colour possibilities afforded by enamelling and firing, which seemed to fascinate him. With regard to the works from which the religious subject has disappeared, Fontana succeeds in creating a continual shape that appears to be being made and undone at the same time. These sculptures full of rhythm and movement, at an aesthetic halfway point between abstract and figurative, reveal colour use that becomes both symbolic as well as a structural element.
 
Valérie Da Costa
 
Valérie Da Costa is an art historian and art critic. She is senior lecturer in contemporary art history at the University of Strasbourg and a specialist of Italian post-war art. She is the author of numerous texts on Lucio Fontana, Fausto Melotti, Pino Pascali, Fabio Mauri, Piero Gilardi and Marisa Merz. She recently published: Écrits de Lucio Fontana (Les Presses du Réel, 2013); and, Pino Pascali : retour à la Méditerranée (Les Presses du Réel, 2015).

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