Pietro Zonza

The last years saw an increase of interest in Lucio Fontana’s ceramic production that, together with his paintings, is conquering a good portion of the artist’s market.Sculptor and painter of international reputation, Fontana was born in Argentina in Rosario (Santa Fè province) on 19 February 1899.In 1910, he started to work as an apprentice in his father’s workshop and in 1921 he decided to dedicate to commercial sculpture in his father’s atelier Fontana y Scarabelli in Rosario. Six years later he moved to Italy and started attending the Brera Art Academy and after three years, only in 1930, he received his sculpture degree. His first works with ceramics date back to 1935, when he met Tullio di Albisola and started a thirty-year collaboration, as plastic artist, at M.G.A factory owned by the Mazzotti Family in Albisola Marina, making futurist and modernist works and achieving great success at national and international exhibitions. “I’ve never turned a plate on the lathe, nor painted a vase. I dislike laces and shades. The delicacies and delicious of the ‘Copenhagen’ baking bore me. And It’s the same for all porcelain and majolica services,” that’s what the Master said in 1935. And, in fact, in a first stage of his production, between 1935 and 1939, Fontana got inspiration from the animal kingdom and still life, partially influenced by Medardo Rosso and Umberto Boccioni’s works. Together with futurist dynamics, his 1930s ceramic production presents also a neo-baroque spatial sensitivity, with a matter that tends to converse with the space. The anti-naturalistic colour, flat and bright at the same time, as well as the figures as they emerge from the magma of matter, are amazing episodes of informal anticipation, in which the figurative subject is brought to almost abstract limits. In these years, he organized his first exhibitions entirely dedicated to ceramics – from Paris to Milan, up to the Quadrennial Exhibition in Rome in 1939. A still unknown material such as grès gave him the chance to propose extremely innovative works. Fontana himself, in his writings, illustrated his position with regards to the use of ceramic, insisting on his self-definition as a sculptor and not a ceramist.The production of his second phase is more sought-after by the market, phase which started after Second World War, after a long period in Argentina, where he sustained himself thanks to his ceramist activity. In this period, his ceramic work maintains its organic vitality, introducing theoretical coordinates, indicated in the spatialist poetry. There is also a reflection on the tragedy of war, which flows in its Harlequins, Dancers and Clowns, and religious representations. Through Depositions and Crucifixes, Fontana manages to express the tragedy of mankind, his existential drama, his pains; the figure of Christ is seen as twisted, destroyed, and to give a better idea of the extreme sufferance, he reduces the colour to a few spots destroying the shape. Fontana is sculptor and painter at the same time, a permanent feature of its entire work: he is a sculptor in the holes and in his famous cuts, since the subject of his research is the interrelation between the work and the space that, passing through the holes and the cuts, transforms the paintings in objects. He said: “I didn’t call them objects because I thought it was too materialist, I called them Concepts because of the new concept to see the mental fact.” And he was a painter also in the sculptures, almost always coloured, since sculpture was for him shape and colour invading the physical space changing it. Sculpture, painting, but first of all drawing: to him, from the gestures and the primary energy of the sign, comes the relation between work and space, merging the idea of spatial concept.
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