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IMMODEST PROPOSALS: THE ART OF LUCIO FONTANA

Lucio Fontana, Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment in Black Light), 1949/1976, papier-mâché, phosphorescent pigment. Installation view, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2014. Photo: Benoît Fougeirol. All works by Lucio Fontana © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome.

HOW DID THE SCULPTOR become the spatialist? This is a deceptively simple and far-reaching question to ask of Lucio Fontana. Yet it allows us not only to see the fundamental logic of the artist’s work but also to think again about the long history of twentieth-century European art as it played out in the aftermath of two world wars and across continents. The recent retrospective of the artist at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, curated by Choghakate Kazarian and Sébastien Gokalp, presented a firmly rooted yet wide-ranging picture of one of modernism’s most tantalizing figures, demonstrating how the artist of the self-declared “Spatial Concept”—an idea at once transcendent and technologizing, cosmic and material—emerged out of sculpture and the sculptural object.

At its best, the show lent a striking coherence to aspects of Fontana’s work that have previously

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