“The Fontana I Love” is the title of a show devoted to the ceramic and plaster works of one of the greatest twentieth century Italian artists. The Galleria Tonelli and Studio la Città will be showing it to an international public on the occasion of Expo 2015. The show is part of the Arte Milano exhibition and publishing project that will bring together five Milanese galleries and two Foundations. The seven participants are: Galleria Blu, galleria Lorenzelli Arte, Galleria Milano, Galleria Tonelli/Studio la Città, Studio Visconti, Fondazione Marconi, and Fondazione Mudima.
This initiative is inspired by the magazine of the same name published in Milan on 1 May 1972, when it was also set up and financed by seven Milanese galleries. Its aim was to become a discussion platform for the themes and contemporary events to be found on the Milanese and international art scene.
The present publication of Arte Milano is promoted and distributed free of charge in Italy and abroad; it is aimed at publicising the idea of a city actively involved in cultural promotion, and pinpoints, through the work of galleries and foundations too, the most recent developments in contemporary art and its history, and of those artists with a consolidated reputation and known throughout the world who have made Milan a focal point for art today.
The exhibition promoted by the Galleria Tonelli and Studio la Città, Verona, is part of this logic. They have decided to present Lucio Fontana: “a genetic figure and, without rhetoric, an epochal one” - as the critics Castagnoli, d’Amico, and Gualdoni describe him - an artist who was an absolute reference point for the artistic and cultural life of Milan in the post-war period.
Over recent decades Fontana’s art ceramics has increasingly become a focus of interest. The artist, though better known for his Attese/Concetti Spaziali, and his famous cuts, in fact began as a sculptor. He was an assistant in his father’s sculpture studio in Argentina and, once having returned to Italy in 1928, he decided to follow the sculpture courses of Adolfo Wildt at the Brera academy. In1935 he became more and more enthusiastic about ceramics, and he made his first works in the workshop of Tullio Mazzotti in Albisola. Ceramics were to remain a permanent feature of his cogent production of work, whether in coloured terracotta, porcelain, glazed ceramics, or stoneware. So the aim of this show is to follow this permanent feature and present a selection of ceramic work by the artist - some thirty pieces - covering a period of forty years, from 1929 to 1968.
Some of the works on show have, in the past, been loaned to various European museums. This was the case of the extremely beautiful Drago, 1948, seen at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris on the occasion of the Fontana retrospective held from 25 April to 25 August 2014, one of the most important exhibitions devoted to his work in the past forty years. Drago belongs to that series of interventions that Fontana had been commissioned to undertake in various private homes. So it is, then, a work conceived in close relation to the space it was destined for but which, in the show, and despite being divorced from its original context, maintains all its force, detailed beauty, as well as a trace of irony, starting from the sculptural pose of the dragon lying on one side. To remain in the sector of coloured and glazed ceramics, we will be exhibiting a Vittoria Alata, 1937, a work from his earliest years in Albisola.
Two Crocefissi and a Madonna con bambino e putti date from the years from 1950 to 1960, those immediately following the Via Crucis, and which show us the “baroque language of Fontana the sculptor” as well as his religious themes, “in a composite synthesis of material and secularism”.
A confirmation of the originality of his art output is to be seen in a wide variety of plates, in particular: Piatto con profilo di donna ,1940; Piatto Nucleare, 1952; Guerrieri, 1951-52; a Corrida, 1959, and a Concetto Spaziale, 1959. The three Rosenthal porcelain pieces dating from 1968 - one white, one black, and one platinum - are almost a polychrome triptych. Coloured terracotta is to be seen in a Concetto spaziale, 1960, from the so-called “egg” series, and in another Concetto spaziale, 1966, in glazed ceramic.
The exhibition venue is in 33 Via Saffi (on the corner of Corso Magenta), right in front of the Galleria Tonelli, and just a short distance from Leonardo’s Last Supper. Arranged in three rooms, and following a thematic rather than chronological itinerary, the exhibition has a simple layout in order to allow the individual works to fully show their expressive strength. The show will be documented by a catalogue with an essay by Luca Massimo Barbero, an art historian and critic who for many years has studied the work of this artist. This publication will help the visitors in their appreciation of the works, and underline the role that ceramics have had in the evolution of Lucio Fontana’s art.