Critics’ Picks

Lucio Fontana, Crocifisso (Crucifixion), 1955–57, glazed ceramic, 14 1/2 x 8 7/8 x 4 3/4".

Lucio Fontana, Crocifisso (Crucifixion), 1955–57, glazed ceramic, 14 1/2 x 8 7/8 x 4 3/4".


Lucio Fontana

Galería Helga De Alvear
Doctor Fourquet, 12
September 8–November 19, 2022

In 1946, Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) declared that conventional forms of representation had been exhausted. The following year, the artist founded Spatialism, a movement that dispensed with the traditional emphasis on illusion and illustration and instead condensed light, time, and space into a minimal gesture—in Fontana’s case, the slice of a razor through monochrome surfaces.

The Argentina-born son of Italian parents, the artist commuted between Europe and Latin America during and after the World Wars. Along the way, he developed a surreptitious body of decorative clay sculptures in which the expressiveness and emotional charge suppressed in his Spatialist canvases found their release.

Ambienti Spaziali” (Spatial Environment) gathers together objects produced between 1938 and 1960. Within the selection of small-scale ceramics, Fontana takes an expressionistic, polychromatic approach to mundane motifs, such as Crocifisso (Crucifixion), 1955–57, or the pair of pigeons in Colombe (Doves), 1949. For “Concetto Spaziale” (Spatial Concept), 1954–59, the artist inflected a series of Japanese-influenced terra-cotta vases and tablets with his characteristic incisions, perhaps in an effort to transcend the objects’ utilitarian nature. The exhibition concludes with Ambiente Spaziale, 1960, seven perforated vermillion-and-black-ink sketches that draft ideas for Spatialist works.

“I am a sculptor, not a potter!” the artist once declared. Perhaps he feared that these unpretentious clay objects would depreciate the aura he had cultivated around Spatialism. And yet Fontana intuitively understood that the creative process is manifold, full of unexpected, apparently disconnected steps and contradictions. This exhibition provides a glimpse of an important aspect of the artist’s practice, one that has long remained in the shadows of his iconic slashed canvases.