Marking the first major U.S. survey of artist Lucio Fontana in more than forty years, The Met Breuer has assembled a landmark show of works from across the artist’s career, unpacking and reassembling disparate threads and conceptual projects from across the expanse of his work to arrive at a roving, exploratory picture of the artist, his career, and his work. Widely known for his Cuts series, slashed paintings that became symbols of the postwar era, Fontana’s work moves in and out of easily framed conceptual projects, and here, his works are allowed to breathe and exchange their ideas, allowing the artist’s work to explore and underscore the depth of his intellectual explorations.
On the Threshold unpacks Fontana’s approach to painting by reevaluating his work in sculpture and decorative arts first and foremost, delving into his early career with works that mix spatial reconfiguration and mixtures of varied craft-based techniques with traditional sculpture, including depictions of women, warriors, and delicate ceramics inspired by undersea imagery.
Yet the exploration of Fontana’s beginnings as a sculptor, including ceramic and environmental sculptures, also allows his work with canvases and painting to emerge as part of the artist’s broader search to integrate the space of art and the viewer into a shared zone. Fontana was well into his career when he used a canvas for the first time, and his first series of perforated paintings, titled Holes (Buchi) are included here, alongside paintings covered with heavy impasto, or decorated with Murano glass. The artist’s work seems to venture out from the canvas in these modes, more drastic interpretations of space that rely on accumulations and deconstructions to finally reach a similar effect.
Yet the Cuts remain Fontana’s enduring legacy, and here take center stage as a powerful conclusion of his artistic practice. Rendered by a single stroke of a Stanley knife across a monochrome canvas while it was still wet, the works are moments of decisive aesthetic deconstruction, a single movement that splits the work and turns it into a mediation between space and surface, the viewer, the wall, and the work bound up in a simple moment of action. Presented here as a series of works moving through a range of different colors and modes, sites and situations, Fontana’s works in this series are a masterclass in minimalism, and how its project allows for increasingly complex interrogations of the gallery, and roles of both viewer and artist within its walls.
Exploring a complex series of spatial iterations and concepts, On the Threshold closes April 14th.
— D. Creahan
Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold [Exhibition Page]