Lucio Fontana was born on 19 February 1899 in Rosario de Santa Fé, Argentina. From 1905 until 1922, he lived in Milan before returning to Argentina, where he worked as a sculptor in his father's studio for several years before opening his own in 1924. Fontana returned to Milan in mid-1927, where he enrolled at the Accademia di belle arti di Brera, which he attended for two years. In 1930, the Galleria del Milione organized Fontana's first solo exhibition in Milan, and that same year Fontana exhibited at the XXVII Venice Biennale. In 1934, he joined the group of abstract Italian sculptors associated with the gallery, moving away from traditional figurative sculpture towards an abstracted geometric aesthetic. The artist traveled to Paris in 1935 and joined the group Abstraction-Création. The same year, he developed his skills in ceramics in Albisola, Italy, and later at the Sèvres factory, near Paris.
In 1940, Fontana moved to Buenos Aires. With some of his students, he founded in 1946 the Academia de Altamira, from which emerged the Manifesto Blanco (White manifesto, 1946). Fontana would also use the term ‘Concetto Spaziale’ (Spatial Concept) for the first time as the title for a group of drawings that year. He moved back to Milan in 1947 and in collaboration with a group of writers and philosophers signed the first Manifesto dello Spazialismo (Manifesto of Spatialism).
The year 1949 was a seminal moment in Fontana's career; he concurrently created his first series of paintings in which he punctured the canvas with buchi (holes), and his first spatial environment, a combination of shapeless sculptures, fluorescent paintings, and black lights viewed in a dark room. The latter work soon led him to employ neon tubing in ceiling decoration. Over the course of the 1950s, Fontana explored numerous technical motifs, such as slashing and perforating, in both painting and sculpture. The Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, held his first solo exhibition in the United States in 1961, subsequently follows by major exhibitions in Milan, Venice, Brussels, London and Tokyo. In 1963, Fontana developed his important cycle of works titled La Dine di Dio (‘The End of God’, 1963-64) and in 1966, he designed opera sets and costumes for La Scala, Milan.
In the last year of his career, Fontana became increasingly interested in the staging of his work in the many exhibitions that honoured him worldwide, as well as in the idea of white as symbolic of purity. These concerns were prominent at the 1966 Venice Biennale, for which he designed the environment for his work, and at the 1968 Documenta, Kassel, West Germany. Fontana died on 7 September 1968 in Comabbio, Italy.
Fontana’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM), Rome; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), Turin; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Collection, London.
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