I had a cringeworthy encounter with an in-house camera crew when I visited the HangerBicocca in Milan a few years ago. On stepping into the enormous space, I was confronted with one of mid-century maestro Lucio Fontana’s neon Ambienti, hanging, glowing blue, from the ceiling. What do you think of Fontana, the crew asked me, on the lookout for some promo content. I nervously mumbled something about not seeing him often in London.
Which I’ve been proved comprehensively wrong about ever since. Fontana’s still a big, collectible, deal. So there’s been a standout show of his Teatrini frames at Nahmad Projects last year. And now, a career-spanning show for his work in fired clay at Robilant + Voena, a couple of streets away.
This impressive room features some early experiments with figurative sculpture, in the form of a couple of equestrian statues from the 1930s. From the later career, there’s a couple of chillingly biomorphic shapes of his zippy 60s heyday. And it’s all contextualised by his trademark slashed and punctured monochrome canvases, on the walls.
Cleverly, the gallery contextualises Fontana’s artistic progression with some choice works from his contemporaries. So there’s a couple of lovely equestrian statues from Marino Marini. And a captivating gridded white cloth work from the master of the minimal, Piero Manzoni.
As ever with this gallery, the exhibition is tight and smart. One Christmas wish to its directors, though: open at the weekend please so I can enjoy the gallery more often!
Immaterial - Fontana Ceramics is at Robilant + Voena (London). October 15 - December 20 2019