Lucio Fontana

The museum is a conventional institution. Equally conventional is the practice of giving introductory talks at exhibition openings. We won’t waste our energy trying to bring about a sudden change in this honourable tradition; we see more important and urgent tasks at hand. After all, I assume it would be more effective to spend some hours of reflection, a day, a night in front of Lucio Fontana’s paintings, detached, concentrated, alone – more effective in any case than an interpretation that will never overcome the barrier between language and phenomenon. Let us hope that the future will be less cumbersome in this regard – for now, let us try once more with language. I do not speak for a group, nor for an organisation, a party or an interest group: I speak in my own name, subjectively, based on ability and capacity.

I consider this first comprehensive exhibition of Fontana’s work, spanning three decades, to be an obligatory push toward an intellectual inventory, an occasion to recognise our practical, intellectual, artistic situation and to draw the consequences from that. […]

Fontana’s piercing of the canvas with stiletto and knife tears open the curtain of prejudices that would have us believe that the world must necessarily be and remain as it is. Behind Fontana’s canvas, and through it, space opens up.

Are we dealing here merely with the extension of illusionist space into real space or its replacement with it? The real space, as an amplification of the painted space, as an expansion of the image space, which here is both real and unreal, results in the appearance of the imaginary space. The twofold foundation of this space likewise gives it twice the suggestive power: imagination also seizes the body (physical sense, balance) of the viewer with the power of the imagination, thus making the transformation of the world sudden and painful, and at the same time perceptible as a continuum. Fontana’s paintings are at once aggressive and relaxed, strong and beautiful, revolutionary and classical. They announce a new reality by slicing through the old one. Understood as an action, Fontana’s painting is tyrannicide; as a competent entity (result), his paintings cause the new space to pulsate  to the new space; Fontana is the “ambasciatore dello spazio”. […]

Art is a sensitive component of life, an exemplary expression of that which is contemporary at a basic level, coined in brief form, at the same time and above all heralding and shaping the future, always apprehending and creating change. Lucio Fontana, in a spontaneous, creatively radical act, destroys the world of old paintings and notions, and thus also, symbolically, the world of petrified habits practised out of fatigue, lack of imagination or cunning. He cuts into the flesh of zombified two-leggedness. His fearless act, in its piercing of the rotten miracles, allows a new act to become manifest: in the sinking of the old, we experience the appearance of new possibilities:
lo spazio.

Otto Piene, inaugural speech for the exhibition Lucio Fontana: Werke aus drei Jahrzehnten”, Städtisches Museum Leverkusen/Schloss Morsbroich (12 Jan. 1962), quoted in Dirk Pörschmann and Margriet Schavemaker (eds.), ZERO, exh. cat. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam / Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Cologne, 2015, p. 302.


In the exhibition:

Lucio Fontana
Eventuale bozzetto per murale, 1959
White primer paint on canvas
26 × 14,5 cm
Private collection, Düsseldorf

Lucio Fontana
Concetto Spaziale, 1959/60
Oil on canvas
80 × 100 cm
Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf