Lucio Fontana On the Threshold The Met Breuer


Lucio Fontana On the Threshold

Exhibition Dates:
January 23–April 14, 2019
Exhibition Location:
The Met Breuer, Floor 3, Floor 5 and The Met Fifth Avenue Gallery 913 

Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold—the first retrospective of the artist in the United States in more than four decades—will reassess the legacy of this key postwar figure through a selection of exquisite sculptures, ceramics, paintings, drawings, and environments made between 1931 and 1968. The founder of Spatialism and one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century, Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) is widely known for a series of slashed paintings from 1958 known as the Cuts (Tagli) that became symbols of the postwar era. The exhibition at The Met Breuer will present extraordinary examples of this iconic series, and will also explore Fontana’s beginnings as a sculptor and his pioneering work with environments, contextualizing the radical nature of the Cuts within his broader practice.

The exhibition is made possible by The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Additional support is provided by the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund and the Aaron I. Fleischman and Lin Lougheed Fund.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with the Fondazione Lucio Fontana.

Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968). Spatial Concept, Expectations, 1959. Oil on canvas. Olnick Spanu Collection © 2018 Fondazione Lucio Fontana/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968). Spatial Concept, Expectations, 1959. Oil on canvas. Olnick Spanu Collection © 2018 Fondazione Lucio Fontana/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Though known primarily as a painter, he was well into his career when, in 1949, he used a canvas for the first time. The exhibition will present examples of his first series of perforated paintings titled Holes (Buchi), as well as paintings loaded with heavy impasto or incrusted with Murano glass that preceded the Cuts (Tagli).

On the Threshold unpacks Fontana’s approach to painting by reevaluating his work in sculpture and decorative arts. His early career was marked by a period of fertile experimentation, whether challenging sculptural norms in Italy by using clay or actively participating in the Argentine avant-garde, Fontana’s early work from the 1930s and 1940s point toward the transgressive nature of his slashes two decades later. The show will present highlights from this period, including sculptures of women, warriors, and delicate ceramics inspired by undersea imagery.

Through Spatialism, Fontana pursued a synthesis of the arts, and his multidisciplinary approach expanded the notion of the art experience to embrace the surrounding space. He was a pioneer of environments—what he called Ambienti—and his experiments with light and space, including his use of neon, set the course for exciting future developments in environments and installation art. On the Threshold will include the reconstruction of the artist’s monumental neon arabesque Neon Structure for the Ninth Milan Triennial (1951) (on view in gallery 913 at The Met Fifth Avenue) as well as two immersive installations never before presented in this country: Spatial Environment “Utopias,” at the Thirteen Milan Triennial (1964) and Spatial Environment in Red Light (1967).

Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold is curated by Iria Candela, Estrellita B. Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.

To coincide with the exhibition at The Met Breuer, El Museo del Barrio will present Fontana’s last environment Spatial Environment at Documenta 4, in Kassel (1968).

An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with essays by international experts addressing his work from both an Italian and Argentine perspective, providing numerous insights into Fontana’s expansive practice. Archival images of environments, public commissions, and the artist’s studio accompany illustrations covering his production from 1930 to the late 1960s, establishing a fresh approach to an artist who responded to the political, cultural, and technological thresholds that defined the mid-20th century. The catalogue will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

The exhibition will be featured on the The Met website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #MetLucioFontana.

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 Patrick Reynolds
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