By slashing the center of his canvases, Fontana allowed three–dimensional space to intrude into an otherwise two–dimensional surface. Fontana first introduced perforations within his works in 1949 and referred to these as “spatial concepts.” He then began slashing his canvases in the early 1950s and added the term “Expectations” to the title. While these works immediately conjure acts of violence and iconoclasm, Fontana claimed “I have constructed, not destroyed.”
Gallery label from 2006.
“Sculpture and painting are both things of the past,” argued Fontana. “We need a new form. Art that’s movement. Art within space.” While living in Buenos Aires between 1940 and 1947, Fontana consorted with many Argentine Concrete artists, such as the Madí group. Inspired by their defiant attitude toward the tradition of painting, he began slashing his canvases in 1949. This iconoclastic gesture destroyed painting as a receptacle of illusions and left viewers contemplating a real cut, which Fontana described as “the beginning of a sculpture in space.”
Gallery label from Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift, October 21, 2019–March 14, 2020