Lucio Fontana, Italian born in Argentina, (1899–1968) moved to Milan in 1905. Fontana trained as a sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera where he became familiar with the art of Arturo Martini, whose work had a strong influence on Fontana’s early work. During World War II, Fontana returned to Argentina, where he began formulating his theory on the concept of space and wrote his Manifesto Blanco. In 1947, he founded Spazialismo, (Spatialism) which he defined in several manifestos as the concept that art should include an element of energy. Fontana highlighted the need for space to be seen in a dynamic way by the viewer in a constant state of transition and tension.
Returning to Milan following the end of the war in 1948, Fontana created his notable series of Spatial Concept paintings, which were novel in his violent attack on the previously sacred surface of the canvas. By slashing and puncturing the picture plane, Fontana transitioned a flat surface into a three-dimensional one, engaging the viewer to look through the surface of the painting. Fontana’s most celebrated gesture, Il Taglio, is a highly gestural and precise slash used throughout his highly acclaimed Attese works. Fontana is also recognized for his Spatial Environment installations of suspended shapes and forms in a room dimly lit by scattered neon lights. Fontana employed new materials such as neon which were indicative of the scientific innovation of the time. He was highly influential among the following generation of artists, who began to administer installation media as a means of addressing the dynamics of space in both the environment and Land Art. In 1966, he was awarded the Gran Premio della Pittura at the Venice Biennale, a remarkable achievement that took place only two years before his death in 1968.
Throughout all his work – which included paintings, ceramic sculptures, and light-based installations – the artist demonstrated a relentless interest in surface and dimensionality; his material explorations helped blur the boundaries between 2D and 3D disciplines. His work has been exhibited in New York, Milan, Zürich, London, Berlin, and Rome, and belongs in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, among others. Fontana’s innovative theories prefigured later developments in environmental art, performance art, and Arte Povera.