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Richard Flood discusses Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale--Attesa (Spatial Concept--Expectation) (1964-1965)


Richard Flood


September 1999

Institution Walker Art Center
If I'm mentally going through the permanent collection and I think of artists like Manzoni and Fontana -- and let me throw Polke in at the same time -- they are to me particularly important insofar as at crucial moments when it looked like nothing could move the notion of painting forward, these people came along and significantly suggested that everything could change one more time. When you're talking about painting, it's a very problematic medium. It's determinedly two-dimensional. You hang it on the wall. It's very vulnerable. It doesn't take up a lot of space. It has no real depth. Everything is an illusion about it. But, then, all of a sudden, you get to somebody like Fontana or you get to somebody like Manzoni and the equation changes. All of a sudden, there is actual literal depth to it. There is a kind of emblematic action that is other than the passive aggressive notion of painting a representational moment or enhancing a known narrative. It's like there they are. He slashes the surface of a painting. It's the most violent act anyone can make against a painting. It's the classic, "Oh, there's a mad man in the museum and he's got a knife." I don't think there's a museum that doesn't fear that phenomena. That's what he made his art. He somehow created this incredible tension simply by doing what everyone feared, but he did it against a virgin ground. Or the gouge . . . when he tears the painting up and you actually see the material interacting with the canvas and you see the struggle. This opens something up; this opens up a new potential. An artist can come along and go, "Wow! I don't have to go out into the pasture and paint what I see before me," or "Wow! I don't have to hallucinate some piece of mise-en-scène and, then, take it to a canvas." This is a total kind of interaction between the artist and the materials. The good news is it changes everything. The bad news is it leaves no room whatsoever for anybody to get in there and move ahead with its gesture. So, the same guy who is crashing open the door is also slamming it shut immediately behind you. I think in terms of a medium like painting, that's what makes legends.
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Type: Commentary, curatorial commentary
Source: Richard Flood, Chief Curator, Walker Art Center, commenting on Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale--Attesa (Spatial Concept--Expectation) (1964-1965), during the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 1999.
Rights: Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009