The explosive relationship between Fontana and Klein under investigation in Milan
Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana, Paris, Galerie Iris Clert, November, 1961. Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
“Fontana! Stop making cuts”: signed Lucio Fontana. If you could peek on the backside of his paintings, you would smile, for writings like this one, or for the many sentences addressed to Italian politicians, or also for the anagrams dedicated to Sophia Loren’s beautiful bottom. But even if the sensitive writer and journalist Dino Buzzati called him a man of humour, Fontana was not the kind of artist who filled his artworks with explicit irony, and neither did the “follet” Yves Klein (in his papers many funny cartoons about the singer Domenico Modugno, or Kazmir Malevich were discovered). For both of them art was a serious business, as proved by the exhibition “Klein-Fontana. Milano-Parigi, 1957-1962”, currently at the Museo del 900, in Milan (until 15 March). The show, which gathers together more than 90 works by the two artists, reveals how their two paths often came across.
If you pay attention to the dates investigated in the exhibition, you will notice that it was indeed during this period that the mass media showed their first interest in space, planets, and new dimensions. People’s fascination for science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and comics goes in parallel with the run for the conquest of the space by the USA and USSR. “The real achievement of the human being lies in his detachment from the Earth, and from the skyline” wrote Lucio Fontana in 1951, but he was actually more interested in science, than in science fiction. As we now today, meteorite discovered in Somalia inspired his series called “Nature”, as well as scientific magazines were the sources of his “holes” and “cuts”.
“Ass holes”, “Vaginas”, claimed some critics at that time, underlining how provocative and indeed destructive these artworks were. As a matter of fact they were quite the opposite, that is: spaces gifted with sculptural qualities. The artist defined them as “openings from a further dimension, which actually comes before painting”, as if to say the new world could actually be found only in the fourth dimension. According to Klein, the final goal was the nothingness (or infinity), thus a mystic remedy urgently needed for a wrong society, which could however get better. The 1.001 blue balloons released into the sky, the leaps into the void, the project of a self-propelled pneumatic rockets, as well as the same spiritual blue of his famous Monochrome, they all seem to embody philosophical one-way tickets for passengers in search of the cosmic harmony.
If Fontana showed the space, Klein pointed out the goal. As friends, they couldn’t be more different: while the religion of former was science, the latter turned to the spiritual absolute. However both of them considered art as a kind of reversed inner eye, a tool to reach enlightenment and revelation, that are indeed irresistible ambitions, not only for the artists, but for anybody who is looking for an answer. It is perhaps this latter concept the key to fathom the mysterious appeal that still characterises the two pioneers, and that offers them the so-longed immortality, like the blue skies in Giotto’s paintings or the stars that, despite being dead for long time, still shine on us.
October 30, 2014