One of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century, Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) continually challenged the boundaries of artmaking and the role of the artist, using a rich vocabulary of material, form, and action. Although best known for his Concetti Spaziale, the spatial environments and slashed canvases he created in the 1950s and 1960s, clay modeling and ceramics have always been central to his process. The beauty of chance and accident, evident from the start in Fontana’s use of ceramics, becomes a strong current in much of the artist’s later work, and some of his first Concetti Spaziale were realized in clay before canvas.
Beginning in the 1930s, Fontana produced a body of baroque ceramic work in which he engaged the problems of both painting and sculpture in innovative and productive new ways. While ostensibly figurative, with subject matter as varied as battle scenes and flowers, these expressive works gain a raw immediacy from Fontana’s vigorous hand modeling as the clay becomes a register of the artist’s process. This direct, forceful manipulation of the purity of the surface also prefigures the violence of the Concetti Spaziale.
Comprising approximately twenty works from the early 1930s through the 1960s, Lucio Fontana: Ceramics will be the first museum exhibition dedicated solely to the artist’s groundbreaking ceramic work. The exhibition will provide the unique opportunity to reexamine the entire career of this seminal artist through work that, though vitally important to his working methods and pivotal in his trajectory as an artist, has never been accorded the importance it deserves and has rarely been exhibited in the United States.