Press Release

LUCIO FONTANA: CERAMICS

Leonard Hutton Galleries is pleased to announce the opening of “Lucio Fontana: Ceramics” featuring the artist's pioneering experiments in ceramics, sculpture and related works. From the earliest object, with the rough earthiness and tonality of stoneware--to the Baroque, with phantasmal qualities of rich glazes and metallic gleams, these artworks reveal a side of the artist that might surprise viewers more accustomed to Fontana’s signature slashed Concetti Spaziale. These unexpected contrasts in Lucio Fontana’s ceramics and sculptures of the thirties, fifties and sixties will be on full display in this exhibition. Paper and canvas artworks from the sixties complement the ceramics, demonstrating the scope of his practice.

One of the greatest Italian artists of the 20th century, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) learned to master ceramics in his father’s workshop. He studied at the Brera Academy at the end of the 1920’s under the symbolist sculptor Adolfo Wildt. There he discovered his interest in clear outlines, compositions with two-dimensional images, and in space, which is not made up of volume but of an imaginary line. The importance granted to substance as a point of departure towards space is reflected in his ceramic pieces.

Fontana sought to free himself from spatial framework, to exalt, underline, and liberate inert material from its static nature--to conquer the mass using spontaneous movements, fragmented and luminous surfaces and a Baroque-Expressionist gesture set in an alternation of concave and convex shapes. His interest for well-defined edges and compositions with two-dimensional images finds expression in more abstract works in which representation gradually disappears. Fontana’s passion to find the boundary between the genres of painting and sculpture, mark and space, and to displace them was to be the characteristic and originality of all his work.

Highlights include Vittoria Alata, (Winged Victory), 1937, immortalized in the act of taking a step forward. Fontana’s Victories have just one single tone tending to be an indefinable brown-green that makes the color ambiguous partly alluding to metal, and achieves an incandescent impression of light and reflections. This Victory, so deeply sculpted from the earth, seems to lift itself up from the clay in a yearning for space and flight.

Crocifisso, (Crucifix), 1950, Fontana systematically stylized the crucifixes with hinted at figuration, dramatic touches of gold, and an immersion in darkness emblematic of pain. Whether of a sacred or secular nature, with their lustrous turmoil, unstable character and tormented material, these Baroque sculptures embody that successful point of rupture that Fontana reached in the post-war period.

Guerriero a Cavallo, (Warrior on Horseback), 1953, using pre-existing molds, replicas of a Baroque plate with imitation volutes and decorations, Fontana was purposely creating alienation.  The artist added a lump of clay onto the center and began to forcefully model figures that were raised from the surfaces in order to involve and destroy them. These hints of knights, sculpted with improvised gestures, with fragmented bodies, their rearing steeds and their lances inscribed in the fresh clay, take on a new life.

Concetto Spaziale, (Space Concept), 1960, minimal, pure and modest, painted with an opaque earth-like tone, this terracotta sculpture with a simple cut across the metaphysical darkness constructs a new space--one where gesture is calibrated and rational, with a revelatory sense of spatial calm and infinite tranquility.

Concetto Spazial-Formella, (Space Concept-Panel), 1962 this ceramic panel with its smooth surface, flattened as though to underline its neutrality and marked by the stigmata of the slash is, in fact, a summary of the entire path of Spatialism. Fontana said, “…with my slashes I invented a formula that I do not think I can perfect. With this formula I have managed to give the viewer an impression of spatial calm, of cosmic rigor, of infinite serenity”. Luca Massimo Barbero aptly states “This was the cosmic rigor that accompanied him at every moment of his intense and vital career as a sculptor, where earth was sculpted with an immense and inspired tremor”.

Ceramics were to remain a permanent feature of Fontana’s cogent production of work, whether in colored terracotta, porcelain, glazed ceramics, stoneware, molded, pierced, or luminous, these groundbreaking ceramics demonstrate why his works continue to impact artists around the world.

Leonard Hutton Galleries was founded in 1957 and has been a valuable global resource ever since to both artists and collectors within the modern and contemporary art world. The exhibition will be open to the public February 28, through March 30, 2017, Monday through Friday from 10:00-5:30.