Lucio Fontana lived in Milan from 1905 to 1922 and then moved back to Argentina, where he worked as a sculptor in his father’s studio for several years before opening his own. Upon his return to Milan in 1928, Fontana enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, which he attended for two years.
The Galleria Il Milione, Milan, organized Fontana’s first solo exhibition in 1930. The artist traveled to Paris in 1935 and joined the Abstraction-Création group. In 1939, he joined the Corrente, a Milan group of expressionist artists. In 1940, Fontana moved to Buenos Aires. With some of his students, he founded in 1946 the Altamira, Escuela libre de artes plàstica. From his contact with younger artists and intellectuals, and from the new ideas in research that he encountered, the Manifiesto Blanco was published in November in pamphlet form, compiled by Bernardo Arias, Horacio Cazenueve, and Marcos Fridman, and also signed by Pablo Arias, Rodolfo Burgos, Enrique Benito, César Bernal, Luis Coli, Alfredo Hansen and Jorge (Amelio) Rocamonte (Fontana did not sign the manifesto, probably because of his position, which was also officially recognized). In the same year, the term Concetto Spaziale (Spatial Concept) appeared for the first time in the titles of a group of drawings by the artist, a term that was to accompany a large part of his output after this date. In Milan from 1947, he came into contact with a group of young artists, and after meetings and debates, the first Manifesto dello Spazialismo (Manifesto of Spatialism) was signed not only by Fontana, but also by the critic Giorgio Kaisserlian, the philosopher Beniamino Joppolo and the writer Milena Milani. In 1948, the second drafting of the Manifesto (quickly followed by a third version: Proposta per un regolamento (Proposal for Regulations), 1950 reiterated the need to go beyond the art of the past, allowing “the picture to come out of its frame, the sculpture out of its glass case“, and to produce new forms of art using the innovative means made available by technological progress. The year 1949 marked a turning point in Fontana’s career; he concurrently created the Buchi, his first series of paintings in which he punctured the canvas, and his first spatial environment, first of all an emblematic work at the Naviglio gallery in Milan: the Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment in Black Light), in which a series of swaying phosphorescent elements hang from the ceiling in a completely black exhibition space. The latter work soon led him to employ neon tubing in ceiling decoration. In the early 1950s, he participated in the Italian Art Informelexhibitions. In the same period he also created a vast neon arabesque for the Triennial above the grand staircase, and a ceiling of indirect light in the vestibule and the hall, both part of an environmental structure designed by the architects Luciano Baldessarri and Marcello Grisotti. During the Fifties, he explored working with various effects, such as slashing and perforating, in both painting and sculpture, taking part in numerous important international exhibitions, and he continued unremittingly with his research in the field of painting. At the peak of his research in this decade, the Tagli (Slashes) series took shape, conceived at the end of 1958 and presented at his one-man show at the Naviglio Gallery in February 1959 and shortly after at the Stadler gallery in Paris (March 1959), then at Documenta in Kassel (July 1959), at the 5th San Paolo Biennial in Brazil (September 1959). During this very invigorating period for the artist, two other short series also emerged. His series of Quanta (1958-1960) is a group of polygonal canvases with slashes, arranged in different patterns, while his Nature(Nature Sculptures 1959 and 1960) series includes clay and bronze works conceived at Albissola. From the start of the sixties, Fontana was particularly committed to his series of Olii (Oils) on canvas, where the thick painted layer is perforated with holes or gashes. This series includes the works devoted to an evocation of the city of Venice, displayed at his first one-man show in the USA at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York (1961). The same year, inspired by the city of New York, he devised a new kind of work, which became his series of Metalli(Metal Sheets), shiny metal plates that the artist cut into with gashes. His unstoppable inventive spirit was paralleled by the number of exhibitions devoted to his work, in Milan, Venice, Tokyo, London, Bruxelles. In his research for iconographic renewal, he developed his important cycle that goes by the name of La Fine di Dio (The End of God, 1963-1964), a series of monochrome oval canvases, at times covered in sequins and cut through with holes or gashes, first shown at the Ariete Gallery in Milan and later at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris. Lucio Fontana next put his creativity to the test with his series of Teatrini (Little Theatres, 1964-1966), works where the lacquered wooden frames are shaped to make up different outlines. The year 1966 was a year of important international acclaim. Solo exhibitions were organized at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, at the Marlborough Gallery in New York and at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in Paris. In Italy, the hall that was devoted to his work at the 33rd Venice Biennial was of particular prominence; in this space he worked alongside the architect Carlo Scarpa to create an oval maze-like environment illuminated by a white light and covered by white canvases each with a single slash. This work was greeted with great acclaim and won the Biennial Prize. The year 1967 marked the culmination of his strict use of single colors, and his tendency to cut canvases with more and more regular clean slashes in his series of Ellissi (Ellipses), elliptical lacquered wooden panels in various colors and perforated by machine-cut holes, in line with new technical developments. At the start of 1968, Lucio Fontana left his studio in Corso Monforte, in Milan, and moved to Comabbio (near Varese).