The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao presents the installation of a spectacular work by Lucio fontana in its atrium, which visitors to the gallery will be able to enjoy for the next three years. ‘Neon structure for the IX Milan Triennale’, conceived by the great Italian-Argentine artist in 1951, it is a piece that can be considered at the same time a drawing, a sculpture, a work of luminous design and an expressive line frozen in the air. Its exhibition is the result of the collaboration between the Fondazione Lucio Fontana in Milan and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
The complexity of this work, which in 2019 was part of the exhibition Lucio Fontana. On the threshold‘, finds an exceptional interlocutor in the building designed by Frank Gehry, whose sketches scrawled on paper are reminiscent of Fontana’s spatial arabesques. Due to its luminosity and dimensions, the imposing neon mocks perspective and distance, providing the viewer with an intensified experience of architecture, perceptible from both inside and outside the museum.
Throughout his career, Lucio Fontana (Rosario, Argentina, 1899-Varese, Italy, 1968) He made space a subject of constant research and meditation, which he would address in multiple contexts and through very diverse materials. After giving rise to the birth of the space movement and returning to Italy in 1947, Fontana progressively took the path of radical abstraction and experimentation. A pioneer in his use of vacuum as a generator of the work of art and its differential component, Fontana was a key figure in the development of multiple avant-garde groups -among them, the international group Zero-, as well as a reference for notable artists of generations later, like Yves Klein, Jorge Oteiza or Jesús Rafael Soto. Despite being known worldwide for his dazzling monochrome canvases, cut and perforated, Fontana always considered himself a sculptor and approached each piece as a complete experience of color and gesture, time, depth, volume, material and light.
In the words of the president of the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Paolo Laurini, «it can certainly be considered one of the most representative and iconic works by Lucio Fontana, an absolute example of his groundbreaking creativity ». For Laurini, the presentation of this work in the atrium of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is exceptional, because «the artist always had a special relationship with architects, to whom he felt close in their spatial sensitivity. The great naturalness with which Fontana’s installation in Bilbao dialogues with the fascinating architecture of Frank Gehry – offering suggestive and unpublished visions and perspectives – makes us think that this relationship finds an ideal continuity here ».
‘The Neon Structure for the IX Milan Triennale’ is one of the most resounding expressions of the conjunction of art and technology in the 20th century. Made of a surprising material for the aesthetic criteria of its time, the piece resulted from a specific commission for the lobby of the Milan Triennale in 1951. It is possible that Fontana responded, with his space neon drawing, to the famous’ light drawings ‘made by Pablo Picasso in collaboration with the photographer Gjon Mili in 1950. Faced with the use of electric light as an exotic material for traditional arts, Fontana proposed with his hundred meters of curly and chaotic neon a tour de force to the capacity of the industry of the time, thus making effective one of the proclamations of the 1948 space manifesto: «With the resources of modern technique, we will make them appear in the sky: artificial forms, / rainbows of wonder, / posters luminous ». At the same time, its layout unexpectedly united the Baroque aesthetic, which he admired so much from his youth, with the technological program of the space age.